Chargers Basketball Team Opens Dec. 10 Against Waialua

If there’s a mystery team in the OIA White West this winter, Pearl City probably qualifies. A roster that includes eight newcomers, including three sophomores, will guarantee as much.

Indeed, the Chargers were still a bit of a mystery to second-year head coach Miles Okamura when they recently began pre-season practice. “We’ll know more tonight,” said Okamura, hours before Pearl City was to host Island Pacific Academy in its public unveiling last week. “We’re still young, but hopefully we can surprise some people.”

Okamura is in the second year of a major rebuilding phase for the program. The Chargers’ head coach from 1985 to 1990, he returned in this spring with a completely new team. It had just graduated an accomplished senior class that earned the school’s first OIA overall girls Division I basketball title only three months earlier under long-time coach Mike Morton, who retired at the end of that season.

The young Chargers struggled to a 0-10 season last winter, but Okamura will bring back a more seasoned group this time around, even though Pearl City will still be among the younger OIA teams. Although they will face Division I schools during the regular season under the OIA’s format, they will compete in DII in post-season, along with West counterparts Campbell, Waipahu and Waialua.

“We’re a lot more experienced this year, and our basketball IQ is higher than last year,” said Okamura, who is building his current team around three returning starters, led by senior Megan Ramos.

A post player, Ramos is one of only two seniors on the team, along with Agassi Augafa.

“Megan is a hard worker who never gives up,” Okamura said. “She’s trying to be a leader right now. She’s still learning. She still needs to work on her shooting a little bit, but she’s improved.”

Also back are junior Jurey Jao and sophomore Ciera Sylva. Sylva is the younger sister of AJ Sylva, who was a key component in the school’s OIA title run in 2013 under Morton.

“Our strength right now is our guards,” Okamura said. “Our posts are still coming along.

“Jurey and Ciera are two of our better outside shooters,” he added. “We’ll also rely on a lot of the girls who are coming up from the JV team. They are really going to help us this year. It’s a really good group of kids. They work hard, and they ask a lot of questions and are eager to learn.”

In the middle, Okamura is counting on sophomore Johnneen Kapu. She started a handful of games at center last season. “She’s improved greatly. She was scoring 8 to 10 points a game during our summer league.”

Pearl City opens its OIA slate with a road trip to Waialua Dec. 10. The team is hoping to finish in the top three within the four-team race among Waialua, Waipahu and Campbell to ensure a berth in the OIA DII playoffs in February.

“Campbell is the team to beat,” Okamura said of the race in the West Region of DII. “Waipahu is always tough with their coach (Nadine Villarmia).”