Lady Knights Kick Off Hoops Season Thursday Against Kailua

The Castle and Kailua girls basketball teams won’t cross paths in the January post-season since both compete in separate divisions. The OIA regular season is a different deal, however.

For the Knights, who are in Division II, Thursday’s 6:30 p.m. game at Kailua won’t just kick off the 2014-15 season, but also will serve to measure their progress as a program, given the Surfriders’ own resurgence in Division I.

“I’m expecting them (Kailua) to be good,” said second-year Castle head coach Joe Lilio. “They were good last year when they were young, and they will have everyone back. I think they’ll be right up there with (defending Division I OIA champion) Roosevelt.”

Both Windward teams made their respective state tournaments last season. The Knights finished 7-9 overall, including a third-place finish in the OIA White (DII) post-season tournament. The team also won a first-round game against Kohala at the DII state tournament. During the season, which pits DI teams against DII teams, Castle also beat a trio of DI schools (Kahuku, Kaimuki and McKinley).

“When we talk to the girls about goals, we talk about trying to improve every game,” Lilio said of his long-range rebuilding plan. “If we can do that, we’ll improve year to year.”

This time, Lilio is building around point guard Sierra Koki. A junior, she averaged 12.4 points per game last year. “She’s more confident this year, and she was confident last year — but she is maturing more as a player. She gets our offense going. Her court management (is her strength) — it helps her with her ball handling.”

Also back is senior Darrien Dacosin, who will play alongside Koki in the back court. “She’s one of our leaders,” Lilio said. “She’s a good shooter who is becoming more and more confident with the ball.”

On the front line, Lilio will count on senior Asia Almeida to lead the way. “She played last year on the wing, but this year we’re asking her to play in the post since we’re inexperienced in the post right now. She’s been doing a good job down there in preseason on the offensive and defensive end.”

Lilio also has high hopes for sophomore guard Kaylee Ishii. “We brought her up as a freshman during the playoffs because we knew we were going to use her on the varsity this year. We’re trying to work her in with the older girls. She has a lot of promise.”

What the Knights will lack in size, they hope to make up for in other areas, he noted. “We’re very small,” he admitted. “When we played Moanalua in pre-season, the referee told me, ‘You have 10 guards on the floor.’ We were both small.”

Lilio is excited to bring back his entire coaching staff too, including Wendell Domingo, Derek Koki, Ven Agullana (JV) and Brian Callahan (JV).

“Without them, and my wife Shelly, I couldn’t coach,” he said.

On the heels of Thursday’s Kailua game, the Knights will host Kalaheo at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. The home slate also includes games with Anuenue Dec. 23, Roosevelt Dec. 30, Kaimuki Jan. 8, Farrington Jan. 14, Kaiser Jan. 16 and Moanalua Jan. 22.