Lady Knights Hungry For State Basketball Tourney Play

Castle girls basketball head coach Joe Lilio can’t help but look upon this week’s Division II state tournament as an opportunity for the Lady Knights to complete some unfinished business.

“We won our first (state tournament) game last year, and then we had a letdown against HBA,” Lilio said. “I don’t know if we were just glad to be there, but we want to be playing in the last (championship) game this year. We got a taste of it and don’t want to settle.”

The team was 6-7 overall at press time and is “peaking at the right time,” according to Lilio. Castle had won three of its last four, heading into last

Thursday’s OIA White title game against Kaimuki. In winning their semifinal over Pearl City last Tuesday, they had already assured themselves of a second straight state tournament berth prior to the championship game.

Ironically, although the Knights are in DII, their best win came Jan. 20, when they went on the road and shocked DI Kahuku 61-53.

“The Kahuku game, and then getting a few more wins, helped with their confidence,” Lilio said. “They’ve shown these past few games how well they can play together, and hopefully we can carry on our momentum. You have to be confident and believe in your skills and your teammates, and they’re finally buying into what we’ve been teaching them.”

Defense has become the team’s forte in recent weeks. It held Waipahu and Pearl City to 12 and 23 points, respectively, in the first two OIA playoff games.

“We’ve seen a lot of improvement on the defensive end, and the girls are finally getting into basketball shape. During our Christmas break, we had a few away on trips and only four or five kids at practice some days.

Now we have a full squad back, and we’ve moved up some from our JV team. We’ve been having some real good practices.”

With the JV team capturing an OIA White title of its own last month, the program’s future is bright. For the present, Lilio is counting on the talented trio of Sierra Koki, Darrien Dacosin and Kaylee Ishii to lead the way this week.

“Sierra is always steady,” Lilio said of Koki, a senior point guard. “She’s been real consistent. Darrien has been steady, defensively also,” he added of Dacosin, who entered last weekend averaging 9.4 points per game — good for fifth in the OIA White. “She’s also one of our better free-throw shooters.”

Ishii’s outside shooting also has helped offensively. The sophomore connected on six 3-pointers in Castle’s big win at Kahuku and came back in her next outing to repeat it against Waipahu. She is currently scoring at a 9.4 clip.

“She missed a good part of the season when she was away on a trip, so it was good to get her back. She’s been shooting the ball very well.”

Lilio also had praise for senior Asia Almeida, who was among the stars of the Kahuku game when she reached double figures with 12 points.

Pairings for the state tournament were to be revealed late Sunday. First-round games and quarterfinal games were to be played on Tuesday and Wednesday at Kaimuki and Kalani high fields. Thursday’s semifinals will be at Kaimuki with the DII state title game set for 5 p.m. Saturday (also on OC-16) at Stan Sheriff Center.