Team Aloha, the all-star girls basketball squad from Hawaii, earned its second consecutive championship title at the Elite Is Earned Spring Invitational girls basketball tournament, held April 26-28 in Walnut Creek, California.
The team posted a perfect 4-0 record during the three-day event. Last year, the squad had a 5-0 record in capturing the crown.
The tournament was sanctioned by the NCAA, meaning nearly a hundred college coaches and scouts were in attendance. Many represented Big West and other schools from the Western United States.
The team, the 13th in program history, consisted of nine underclassmen: three juniors, four sophomores, and two freshmen. They were Fab 15 standouts Caiyle Kaupu of Konawaena, who was selected for the third straight year; Kahuku’s Leiah Naeata; Lily Wahinekapu of Iolani; Maryknoll’s Jaylen Tanuvasa; and Kelsie Imai of Waiakea. Returnees Kaupu, Naeata, Tanuvasa, and Imai were contributing members of 2018’s championship squad and Wahinekapu was joined by sister Jovi Lefotu from Division I state champion Iolani, Noelle Sua-Godinet of Kamehameha-Kapalama, Hanalani’s Lishae Scanlan, and Punahou’s Tatianna Burciaga-Reyes.
In qualifying for the title matchup, the Hawaii girls posted preliminary round victories against the Salt Lake Metro Black of Utah, 58-22; Portland’s Northwest Stars Navy, 64-52; and 90TEN Team Black of Washington, 52-25.
In the championship game against the Washington Swarm, which boasted several players recruited by NCAA Division I teams, Team Aloha earned a 53-48 win to take the crown. Caiyle Kaupu, Wahinekapu-Lefotu sisters Lily and Jovi, Jaylen Tanuvasa, Leiah Naeata, and Kelsie Imai played key roles in leading Team Aloha to a come-from-behind victory.
Team Aloha head coach and founder Mufi Hannemann, said, “Our athletes showed tremendous discipline and stamina in our victories. The girls’ exceptional defense proved to be the key, as their unrelenting press and teamwork wore down our opponents, and they made key baskets and free-throws down the stretch.
“I’ve said time and time again that our girls can compete against the best in the nation, and our continued competitiveness shows the caliber of home-grown talent we have. It also bears mention that our participation in these sanctioned mainland tournaments has led to a number of our players-who otherwise might have escaped recognition because of limited exposure at home-coming to the attention of college recruiters. That was the case last year, and this year as well.”
Chris Hansen, managing editor of ProspectsNation.com and director of Elite Is Earned Basketball, said, “For the second straight year, Team Aloha came to the Elite is Earned Spring Invitational and proved how good the basketball is in Hawaii. Competing in a field with teams from eight states and two countries, Coach Mufi and his staff have the team playing at a very high level in front of nearly 100 college coaches this weekend.
“Team Aloha plays a tough and fun style of basketball that fans and coaches loved to watch. In the championship game, they gritted out a tough win against the Washington Swarm, who have multiple players being recruited by Division I schools. It was an impressive showing.”
Assisting Hannemann were veteran girls prep basketball coaches Sherice Ajifu, Rodney Cavaco, and Rodney Veary.