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Team Aloha shines on the mainland


The college scouts came to see Konawaena High standout Chanelle Molina, and they liked what they saw.

But a couple of other Big Island players also caught recruiters’ eyes at the Arizona Elite Spring Classic girls basketball tournament in Phoenix.

“They were asking, ‘Who is this Ihi girl? Who is Lexi?”’ Team Aloha assistant coach Mufi Hannemann said.

Molina as well as Wildcats teammate Ihi Victor and Hilo High’s Alexis Pana helped the Hawaii all-star team finish unbeaten to claim the 17-and-under division. Molina led the way with 15 points on Sunday in a 44-39 victory against Oregon Elite White in the championship game of the 47-team field.

Molina, a sophomore and the reigning Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division I Player of the Year, played on Team Aloha last year.

“We knew there was potential, but she’s just blossomed and taken off,” Hannemann said.

Victa, a junior, and Pana, a sophomore, also started — along with Punahou’s Tyra Moe and Farrington’s Jeneva Toilolo — after locking down spots at a jamboree.

“We look for players that can work well in the team concept,” Hannemann said. “There is a Konawaena awareness (on Oahu), and we know the Big Island breeds great basketball players.”

He was impressed Team Aloha was able to gell so quickly after only being together for three weeks and a handful of practices. Most of its opponents in Phoenix, Hannemann said, play together year-round on their club teams.

Not surprisingly, Molina drew most of the attention on and off the court. She already has a scholarship offer from the University of Hawaii, but Hannemann feels Victor and Pana are on a similar path.

“If they continue to mature and develop, I see them getting several Division I offers,” said the former Honolulu mayor. “They definitely put themselves on the radar screen.”

Team Aloha makes a trip to a mainland tournament each year, and it took its first title since 2006, a squad that included Honokaa’s Keisha Kanekoa, Hilo’s Vicky Tagalicod and Konawaena’s Jazzmin Awa-Williams. Kanekoa (University of Hawaii) and Tagalicod (Southern Cal/UH) each nabbed Division I scholarships, while Awa-Williams played in Division II at Hawaii Pacific.

Kanekoa was an assistant this year under Fran Villarmia-Kahawai.

“I think the one outstanding characteristic of both teams is they didn’t give up,” Hannemann said. “Determined young ladies.”

Team Aloha opened play Friday by beating Arizona Elite Gray 57-30, then its eight-player roster was put to the test Saturday when it played three games: victories against Oregon Elite Orange (51-46 in OT); a team from Northern California (55-29) and Washington (45-34).

 

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