Lady Knights Come Through Preseason Fine With New Coach

The front end of the Castle girls basketball team’s OIA East schedule looks similar to last month’s pre-season.

The December slate should be one to remember. The Knights opened their regular season last Wednesday with a tough road test at Moanalua before coming home over the weekend to host Kahuku.

On Thursday, they will play a much-anticipated game against Kaiser in Hawaii Kai, and a game versus Farrington will follow next Wednesday. All told, Castle’s first three league opponents were a combined 24-9 last winter versus OIA competition.

The Knights’ 2013-14 edition promises to be far more experienced under new head coach Joe Lilio, especially after preseason games against defending Division I state champion Kamehameha, Hawaii Baptist Academy, Iolani, Mid-Pacific Institute, Punahou (Division II) and Maryknoll.

And Lilio wouldn’t have it any other way. “We’ve had a real good preseason – the girls did well,” Lilio said. “We came out of it at 6-3 and gained a lot of experience and learned a lot. In our last game with Waipahu, we had a very, very good game, so we hope that carries on into the regular season.”

Lilio is quite familiar with the Castle program, having spent the past six seasons as head coach for its JV boys team. He’s building the 2013-14 girls team around New Mexico transfer Bree Hildago, veteran point guard Sierra Koki, forward Darrien Dacosin and sisters Shaney and Sheastel Tiumalu.

Hildago’s versatility has been a big boost to date, as she has played multiple positions. “She can handle the ball, and she knows how to use her body down low if we need her there,” Lilio said. “Her overall hustle, defense and ability to get up and down the floor has helped us. She gets a lot of lay-ups off of that.”

Koki has emerged as one of the coaches on the floor, meanwhile, in the coach’s view. “As the boys JV coach here, I didn’t have a true point guard for a few years, and that’s what she brings,” Lilio said. “She’s been our floor general. She’s been smart with the ball, and she’s been finding open people. She’s also shooting well. She had two or three 3-pointers in our last (preseason) game (a win over Waipahu). And Darrien brings experience and a lot of hustle out there. She’s a good defender.”

The Tiumalu sisters are among the more experienced players on the Castle roster. “Shaney is tall and lanky, very athletic, and she can handle the ball. She’s been aggressive in taking the ball to the basket.

“Sheastel has been real solid – she holds things down in the paint,” he added. “She has great post moves, and she keeps everything together.”

Lilio is looking for a big effort from his backcourt on Thursday when the Knights visit Kaiser. “Our guard play has to be good – we’ve got to be on top of that,” he said. “They (Kaiser) are not that big this year.”

While the OIA’s current format pits DI and DII teams against one another in the regular season, the two divisions will be split when the post-season arrives. As such, the Knights will actually compete in DII when it comes to the playoffs and state tournament.

“I’m pretty confident we’ll be right in it (in the mix in DII),” Lilio said. “Our goal is not only to be competitive with DI teams, but to beat them. If we can stay healthy, I really believe that we have something special this year.”