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Mandaquit off to hot start for Raiders; Falcons' Kaneko leading by example

JJ Mandaquit

Iolani basketball  •   #23  G  Freshman

The future is bright for JJ Mandaquit, but the present is pretty shiny as well for the Iolani hoopster. 

Mandaquit, a 6-foot-1, 170-pound guard is off to a dazzling start to his freshman season with the Raiders (2-2), averaging an Interscholastic League of Honolulu-best 20.3 points per game through the first two weeks of play. 

"I would say that if you have an opportunity to watch him play, you would think that he was an upperclassman," Iolani coach Ryan Hirata said. "The IQ, the toughness, the ability to create his own shot and get other people open — he just plays well beyond his years."

After he made his ILH varsity debut with a 23-point performance in a season-opening win over Damien two Saturdays ago, Mandaquit followed that up with a trio of productive outings last week. 

Mandaquit scored 18 points, including three 3-pointers, in a 47-39 loss at top-ranked Saint Louis on Tuesday. He then poured in a season-high 24 points in a 55-49 loss at then-No. 4 Maryknoll Thursday. In Saturday's 59-52 home win over third-ranked Kamehameha, Mandaquit shot 7 for 9 from the free-throw line and tallied 16 points. 

"I think for a freshman to produce the way he has has been great and he knows that there are certain areas that he can improve on and he'll tell you scoring points is only one thing, but again, (wins) are important and the one (win) we got was against Kamehameha on Saturday," Hirata said. "We moved it, we shared it and a lot of (defenses) are going to focus on him, so when he's able to distribute and move the ball as well as stay aggressive, that's when our team is gonna be at our best."

The win was a needed one, for sure, for the Raiders, who fell from second to fifth in this week's ScoringLive/Hawaiian Electric Power Rankings. Every win in the gauntlet of the ILH Division I ranks is a precious one, Hirata acknowledged. 

"Whenever you can get a win in the ILH, you're always gonna take it. There's no nights off and so you gotta take what you can get and grind it out every night and that's going to be the mentality going forward for our team, is that the little plays matter the most, so we gotta take advantage of that," he said. 

Hirata chalked up the losses to the Crusaders and Spartans are part of the learning curve for his squad, which includes two freshmen, five sophomores, four juniors and five seniors. 

"We're a young group. We're super young, but I'm excited for these guys. The first two games we had our chances, we just got ‘out-veteraned,' but now moving forward — it's game number five (Tuesday) — there's no excuses; we gotta go out there and play, like everybody else and do what everybody else does," Hirata said. 

Mandaquit's high level of play — he scored 18 points against national powerhouse Sierra Canyon (California) in an Iolani Classic game last month — combined with his youth, gives Hirata and the Raiders plenty of reasons to be optimistic for years to come. 

"He's very important to what we do. He knows that we ask him to do a lot on both sides of the floor, both defensively and offensively, and I think he takes pride in that," Hirata said of the combo guard. "For our overall success, he knows getting his teammates involved and doing what's best for the team is always number one and being a great teammate, I think, is something that he's continuing to develop. For us to be successful we need our entire team to jell together and being a great player is not just putting the ball in the basket, but making everyone around you better."

To do all that he has been asked of, it has required Mandaquit to play a lot of minutes, but he's been up to the task so far. 

"We ask him to log over twenty-eight, twenty-nine minutes a game and we talk about consistently all the time and being able to do it on both sides of the ball, so I think his stamina is most impressive right now, especially because we gotta wear masks," Hirata pointed out. "It's been an adjustment, but he's been doing a good job of keeping us in rhythm and keeping us doing what we do, so it's been good."

Despite his lofty scoring average and extended playing time, Mandaquit is whole-heartedly a team player first and foremost, Hirata reiterated.

"He knows that without his team, without the seniors and the rest of his teammates, it's not even worth it because he knows he can't do it alone. He's part of the equation — he knows that — but the other part of his equation is his guys and that's why he works so hard, is he doesn't want to let those guys down," Hirata said. 

It's certainly not by coincidence or happenstance that Mandaquit is ready for the physical demands of the varsity level as a freshman. 

"He works extremely hard on his body every day. I would say three-sixty-five he's either doing pushups, pull-ups, working out at the park — because that's going to be one of the major factors as he continues to develop, is making sure that his body is ready for all the action — so he works extremely hard on his body," Hirata explained. 

For as good as Mandaquit has been offensively, his work on the other end of the court shouldn't go unnoticed either, Hirata cautioned. 

He said, "For a kid so young, he's great defensively. He needs to work off the ball, but in terms of his ability to defend on the ball, he's awesome."

Mandaquit hails from a basketball family. His older sister, Jaety, is a standout sophomore guard for the No. 1-ranked Iolani girls basketball team and his father, Jason, was a state player of the year in 2000, when he led Hilo High to a state championship. 

Hirata, a 2004 Iolani graduate, calls Jason Mandaquit a friend, but also "the most mentally tough guy I've met in my life."

"Jaety and JJ are so lucky to have a dad that has been through it before and just leaves it al out there," Hirata recalled of the pesky Jason Mandaquit as a player. "Jason was 5-9, but everything was heart, so I think that's where, if JJ gets his dad's mentality, I mean, it will be scary."

To be sure, JJ Mandaquit is a gym rat and a hoops junkie. He played water polo for Iolani as an eighth-grader last year, but did not participate this year in order to focus his efforts on basketball.

"He's kind of quiet, keeps to himself, that personality that just kind of takes care of business; I think his fun is just working out and spending time with his family," Hirata said. 

Mandaquit's potential on the hard wood is certainly hard to ignore by any account. Hirata believes that Mandaquit has the capacity to put together quite the decorated prep hoops' career over the next four years. 

"I think, just like everybody else, he knows that there's areas that he still needs to improve, but that's the beauty of being young is he has four more years to do it," Hirata said. "At the end of the day, if he keeps improving and keeps putting in the work — he's over a 3.0 (GPA) student — he could have a strong impact on Hawaii basketball."

Iolani continues ILH play with three more games this week. 

Mandaquit and the Raiders will host No. 4 Punahou (3-2) Tuesday, No. 1 Saint Louis (4-1) Thursday and Mid-Pacific (1-4) Saturday. 


Joshua Alamodin, Aiea — Scored 23 points in a loss to Waianae

Aiva Arquette, Saint Louis — Scored 30 points in a win over Maryknoll

Hayden Bayudan, Saint Louis — Scored 18 points in a win over Iolani and scored 16 points in a loss to Punahou

Jordan Babcock, Kekaulike — Scored 18 points in a loss to Maui

Kahiau Bruhn, Kamehameha — Scored 17 points in a loss to Iolani

Trajan Cantere, Maui — Scored 18 points in a win over Kekaulike

Aaron Claytor, Iolani — Scored 20 points in a win over Kamehameha

Mareyon Cromartie, Kauai — Scored 24 points in a win over Island School

Logan Dias, Maryknoll — Scored 18 points in a win over Iolani

Ethan Escobido, Mid-Pacific — Scored 23 points in a win over Damien

Rashawn Fritz-Betiru, Kaimuki — Scored 22 points in a loss to Kahuku

Braeden Fujimoto, Aiea — Scored 28 points in a loss to Waialua

Tyler Grover, Radford — Scored 18 points in a win over Pearl City 

James Judge, Seabury Hall — Scored 23 points in a win over Lanai

Kamuela Kaaihue, Roosevelt — Scored 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds in a win over Kaimuki

Ellice Kapihe, Jr., Kamehameha — Scored 21 points in a win over Mid-Pacific

Dillon Kellner, Punahou — Scored 19 points in a win over Mid-Pacific

Keanu Kupau, Kekaulike — Scored 30 points in a loss to Maui

Peyton Macapulay, Punahou — Scored 16 points in a win over Saint Louis

Coby Molina, Konawaena — Scored 18 points in a win over Honokaa

Rylan Morikawa, Aiea — Scored 20 points in a loss to Waialua and scored 16 points in a loss to Waianae

Malcolm Nichols, Leilehua — Scored 22 points in a win over Campbell

Terran Penitani, Waianae — Scored 20 points in a win over Aiea

Jonny Philbrick, Kailua — Scored 20 points in a win over Kalani

Kale Spencer, Kamehameha-Maui — Scored 22 points in a win over Lahainaluna

Noah Takahata, Hanalani — Scored 23 points in a loss to Hawaii Baptist

Amari Westmoreland-Vendiola, Kahuku — Scored 27 points with three rebounds, two assists, one steal and a block in a win over Castle and scored 21 points in a win over Kaimuki

Kunique Yandall-Parker, Kapolei — Scored 17 points in a win over Nanakuli

James Zara, Waialua — Scored 22 points in a win over Aiea 


Logan Aurio, Kapolei — Scored four goals in a win over Waianae

Nolean Bowler, PAC-5 — Scored two goals in a win over Damien 

Sean Caires, Kaiser — Scored four goals in a win over Farrington

Anthony Cordeiro, Campbell — Scored two goals in a win over Waianae

Andre Estanique, Mililani — Scored two goals in a win over Radford 

Brandon Euceda, Radford — Scored two goals in a tie with Campbell 

Declan Horio, Punahou — Scored five goals in a win over Damien and scored twice in a win over Kamehameha 

Kanata Kuwahara, Baldwin — Scored the lone goal in a win over Lahainaluna

Jordan Nobe, Kapolei — Scored two goals in a win over Waipahu

Christian Ocampo, Campbell — Scored two goals in a win over Waianae 

Devin Pang, Iolani — Scored two goals in a win over Saint Louis 

Shun Sato, Moanalua — Scored the lone goal in a win over Roosevelt

Raiden Takasato, Castle — Scored five goals in a win over Kalaheo 

Ryan Kaneko

Kalani soccer  •   #22  F  Senior

Off the soccer pitch, Ryan Kaneko is a kind-hearted, free spirit. Between the lines, however, the Kalani senior is all about competition. 

Kaneko, a forward and third-year varsity player for the Falcons, is one of eight seniors on the team and a team captain. There is no questioning her desire, as her coach described. 

"Fiery is a very good word, intense is also a good word," Kalani coach Jillian Okamoto said of the 5-foot-1 Kaneko. 

"Ryan is a very passionate player and she's a very intense player, so her relationships off the field are what's most important. We always reiterate to the girls that once you're on the field it's a different mentality from when you're off the field and with Ryan there's two different, I guess, personas and her championship persona is always on the field," Okamoto added. "I would put it this way, that I would not want to be a defender on the other team, nor a goalkeeper."

On-the-field Ryan is quite the contrast from off-the-field Ryan. 

"I would call her personality very bubbly and inclusive. It's very nice to see her interact with the underclassmen and making sure that they're comfortable in the environment, too," Okamoto remarked. 

For Kaneko, the environment has been an ever-changing one. Over her four years in the program, she has played for three different coaches, Okamoto being the latest. 

"She is a very kind-hearted, take-the-initiative type of person, so I really appreciated her reaching out to make sure the team gets a good start and she has a good relationship with my two other coaches so overall it's been a great experience so far," said Okamoto, who was hired prior to the 2020-'21 season, which never transpired. 

Okamoto, a 2001 graduate of Kalani and former player under then-coach, now-athletic director Greg Van Cantfort, values Kaneko's contributions toward helping to build team camaraderie, while also sustaining a high level of play. 

"I think that the mentorship that she does have with these players — during halftime I always ask for comments, feedback from them and she always has something constructive to say, reminders — so she's definitely one to ensure that everybody is aware of something, which is just for the benefit of the team," Okamoto detailed. 

In the long lead-up to her first season as coach at her alma mater, Okamoto said she leaned on the experience of the few returning players and most certainly, Kaneko. 

"I obviously am new so I had to rely on the girls who were underclassmen — who were sophomores and are seniors today — but I rely on her leadership, her knowledge and her relationship off the field with the players, so I'm very impressed as to the varsity bond this season considering what they went through last year," Okamoto remarked. 

She went on, "I just commend her for taking the leadership role because I didn't even ask or anything, it just came out like, ‘Hey coach, how are we start doing this?,' or, ‘This is what we used to do,' or, ‘What do you think about this?,' so she actually became more like the teacher to some of the players as well and I think that just shows how much passion she has for the game."

Kaneko scored six goals as a freshman, which ranked second on the team. Kalani posted a 5-3-2 record that season and was ousted in the first round of the OIA Division I tournament. The following year the Falcons struggled to a 3-6 record and fail to reach the playoffs. 

This winter, however, after a wait of nearly two years, Kalani finds itself in tied for third place in the OIA D1 East standings with a 4-2-1 record. Kaneko has been key to the Falcons' success this season with a team-high nine goals scored. 

In addition to soccer, Kaneko also runs track for the school during the spring season, which is takes full advantage of on the pitch. 

"Her strength is definitely her speed. We say ‘sprint' and she has a gear after sprint; I don't know where she finds it," Okamoto said. "She's definitely one of the fastest players that I've ever coached and her power when she passes and when she shoots the ball, that plays a big factor in her goal scoring, but I'm actually very impressed with her mentality and focus. I don't think I've ever seen a more passionate player; every game is like a championship game."

As fast as Kaneko is, she is just as versatile. Okamoto moved her from her usual forward spot to center-back for a game against first-place Moanalua (6-0) two weeks ago. 

"We tried to play more of a defensive game against Moanalua, but even when she's at forward she would be the one to go all the way to our keeper to help defend and support the team that way, too, no questions asked," Okamoto said. "When we asked her to play more defensive against Moanalua, there was no attitude, nothing; it was just, ‘all right, coach. I will definitely play that role,' so yeah, she leads by example, for sure."

Kaneko scored the only goal for Kalani in the 4-1 loss to Na Menehune, which Okamoto called "the most beautiful shot I have seen a high school player do — she was maybe twenty-five yards out, she took a cut and shot the ball and upper V. Beautiful. She was putting on her own clinic despite the loss," she said.

It was one of just two goals Moanalua has allowed this season. Kaneko has scored in all six games this year, a win by forfeit over Farrington notwithstanding. 

In two games last week — both of them wins for the Falcons — Kaneko tallied five goals. She netted a hat trick in a 7-1 victory at Roosevelt Wednesday. 

"We got a lot better ball movement in that Roosevelt game — the team actually clicked, that's what we were saying — so it was nice to see that cohesion," Okamoto said. 

Kaneko, who is signed with Cal Lutheran, continued her hot streak Saturday with two more goals in a pivotal 3-1 win over previously-unbeaten Kaiser. 

"She had a very smart goal — her second goal — that reminded me of the Carly Lloyd shot in the World Cup against Japan where she just lofted it over the keeper, who was playing a little bit higher than usual, but it speaks to (Kaneko's) vision, recognizing that the keeper was a little bit out and then just shooting the ball and it found the net," Okamoto recalled. 

Kaneko and the Falcons will host McKinley (0-6) Saturday, before they wrap up the regular season against Kalaheo (3-3-1) on Feb. 3. 


Nahenahe Alo, Sacred Hearts — Scored 13 points with 10 rebounds and four steals in a loss to Damien

Theresa Anakalea, Damien — Scored 24 points, including five 3-pointers, with three rebounds, three steals and an assist in a win over Sacred Hearts and scored 21 points in a win over University Lab 

Brittlay Carillo, Seabury Hall — Scored 18 points in a win over Lanai 

Ceci Enos, Nanakuli — Scored 19 points in a win over Aiea 

Anniversary Filisi, Leilehua — Scored 17 points in a win over Pearl City

Veda Galima, Hilo — Scored 18 points in a win over Kealakehe

Hinalii Grance, Kapaa — Scored 16 points in a win over Kauai 

Chera-Lei Hiers, Hanalani — Scored 15 points in a loss to Mid-Pacific 

Elisa Holakeituai, Maryknoll — Scored 20 points with six rebounds, one assist, one block and a steal in a loss to Iolani

Annabelle Hong, Iolani II — Scored 20 points in a win over Punahou II 

Maela Honma, Kamehameha-Hawaii — Scored 20 points in a win over Pahoa and scored 18 points in a loss to Hawaii Prep

Kiani Hoolulu, Maryknoll — Scored 15 points in a loss to Kamehameha

Veniza Jackson, Lanai — Scored 18 points in a loss to Seabury Hall and scored 16 points in a win over Seabury Hall 

Kealohilani Kandiah, Kamehameha — Scored 18 points in a win over Maryknoll 

Ellana Klemp, Hanalani — Scored 20 points in a loss to Mid-Pacific and scored 14 points in a win over Sacred Hearts 

Jahlyxcs Liana, Nanakuli — Scored 24 points in a win over Aiea 

Alexus Maae, Kaiser — Scored 16 points in a win over McKinley

Jaety Mandaquit, Iolani — Scored 16 points in a win over Kamehameha

Ayana Meyer, Hilo — Scored 20 points in a win over Kealakehe and scored 14 points in a loss to Konawaena 

Alana Nagata, University Lab — Scored 21 points in a win over Punahou II, scored 18 points in a loss to Kamehameha II and scored 26 points in a loss to Damien

KalysaMarie Ng, Sacred Hearts — Scored 16 points with six rebounds, five steals and three assists in a win over Punahou II 

Kanoe Piltz, Kamehameha II — Scored 17 points in a win over University Lab 

Brooke Samura, Hawaii Prep — Scored 17 points in a win over Kamehameha-Hawaii

Natasha Sinenci, Baldwin — Scored 15 points in a loss to Kamehameha-Maui

Meleani Siostrand, Seabury Hall — Scored 15 points in a win over Lanai 

Keilani Stewart, Punahou — Scored 19 points in a win over Kamehameha

Florie Mei Tagabi, Pahoa — Scored 15 points in a loss to Kamehameha-Hawai

Trinity Talaipa, Kamehameha II — Scored 16 points in a win over Iolani II 

Shaianne Taosoga, Kahuku — Scored 15 points in a win over McKinley

Kayla Thornton, Maui — Scored 17 points in a win over Kekaulike

Ciera Tugade-Agasiva, Maryknoll — Scored 17 points in a loss to Kamehameha 

Pio Tuivai, Seabury Hall — Scored 17 points in a loss to Lanai 

Ayshah Vea, Baldwin — Scored 15 points in a loss to Kamehameha-Maui

Jovi Wahinekapu Lefotu, Iolani — Scored 24 points with eight rebounds, five assists, five steals and one block in a win over Maryknoll and scored 14 points in a win over Punahou 

Taleilelagi Wily-Ava, Kahuku — Scored 15 points in a win over McKinley


Saraya Burghardt, Kamehameha — Scored two goals in a win over Mid-Pacific 

Carly Cormack, Punahou — Scored three goals and assisted on another in a win over Punahou II 

Sienna Fernandez, Baldwin — Scored three goals in a win over Lahainaluna

Kamryn Kaleiohi-Haia, Kamehameha — Scored two goals in a win over Mid-Pacific

Ally Helbush, Moanalua — Scored the lone goal in a win over Kahuku 

Faith Hines, Kapolei — Scored four goals in a win over Waianae

Ui Kaaihue, Kekaulike — Scored the lone goal in a win over Kamehameha-Maui

Rani Pascual, Waipahu — Scored the lone goal in a win over Kapolei 

Alyna Slater, Aiea — Scored the lone goal in a win over Waipahu

Reach Kalani Takase at [email protected].

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