Over the winter break, the boys and girls varsity basketball teams embarked on their biennial trip to California.

Both teams began their pre-season training in early November, but it took some time before each team found their stride.

With three graduated seniors, the girls varsity team began the pre-season with eight returnees. Just as pre-season training begun, two returnees decided to not continue with the sport, which opened the way for two junior varsity players, freshmen Emily Ching and Shaila Terry, to join the team just before their training trip to California. 

“When I first found out that I was [going to] be moving up to varsity, I was kind of scared because it was a big step from JV. But the trip helped me bond with my teammates because I would spend time with them every day,” said Terry. 

The girls made their first appearance in the Larry Doyle Tournament of Champions in Huntington Beach. They went 2-2 and unfortunately lost to Yorba Linda in the consolation round. Assistant coach Isaac Hayashi thought that the trip was a good learning experience. “The trip was good for the girls. [It was a] good experience to face different teams and different types of players that were a little bit quicker and bigger than the teams that we will face [in Hawaii],” he explained. 

Junior Ally Low shared what she learned from the trip, saying, “The tournament in California taught me to persevere through my injuries and [reminded me] that my teammates have my back. Throughout the tournament we faced a few challenges, but we found ways to work around or through it. I also learned a lot about myself too. I learned about my attitude and commitment towards this sport, and I hope to continue to grow and improve.”

While the boys team had 10 returnees, it took them some time to find a rhythm too, having lost six senior players. Their pre-season record before the California trip was 5-4.

Assistant coach Ty Minatoya was pleased to see the team progress during the tournament. “I think that the trip really helped the boys become friends. We saw it in the games where they became closer as a team. They finally saw how to play with one another. I think that having that bonding off and on the court really helped the team chemistry and it [especially shown] on defense. They played really well and a lot of it came with those good experiences with their teammates off the court,” he said.

The boys varsity team played in the Tustin Holiday Classic. Over their four day long tournament, the boys team went 1-3 and ended with a tough loss to Damonte Ranch, who defeated HBA 60-38. 

Despite the losses, the trip was nonetheless a fruitful experience for senior Eli Shibuya. Averaging 21 points per game and 3.5 assists per game, he was named to the All-Tournament Team. “It felt really good because I put in a lot of work to be the player I am today. So, the accomplishments that I get are able to reflect all that I put in, [and] I am proud that it is being recognized. I spent a lot of time in the gym and at the park, and I am lucky to have people that will help me out. I have my brother to get my rebounds and my dad who tries to coach me up after the games,” said Shibuya. 

Off the court, both teams also had opportunities to bond. Before the tournament, the boys spent their first full day at Knotts Berry Farm. Half of the team spent their time on rides and the other half tried their luck at the carnival games. Junior Connor Wong fondly remembers teammate Devin Corpuz going 0-12 in a 3-point contest carnival game. “[Unfortunately,] Devin didn’t win any prizes,” he joked. 

As for the girls, they spent their last full day of the trip at Disneyland. The team woke up before dawn in order to get to the park in time for the rope drop. Terra Kawamoto, one of the two seniors on the team, said her favorite event on the trip was Disneyland because she got to “spend time with [her] teammates and [bond] with them.”

For junior Sierra Ramos, this trip was her first time traveling out of state with the team. “My most memorable moment was connecting with the freshmen, specifically when we were at the campfire [outside of our hotel] making s’mores because Emily kept on burning the marshmallows,” Ramos recalled. 

The girls are currently playing for the state championship, having finished their regular season 10-5, defeating Damien 42-32 in their final season game and placing them third overall. Their third place finish earned them a spot at the state championship, where they defeated Hawaii Preparatory Academy 38-35 to open the Heide & Cook D2 State Championship Tournament. On Wednesday, February 7, they will take on the top-seeded and defending state champions Kapa’a. 

The boys finished 4-9 in their league and will battle in the Division II and III Integrated Single Elimination Tourney to clinch their way into the state berth. They will play Hawaii Mission Academy on Monday, February 12th.