Eastsidazs Play Fast On League Court
By Jack Danilewicz
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If his Eastsidaz Basketball Club team’s best defense is its offense, that’s fine with Simon Bitanga.
Either side of the ball can help get his team to compete at the relentless pace he prefers. “We’re up-tempo,” said Bitanga, also Kaiser High girls varsity coach. “We want to push the ball. We’re always trapping, always pressing. We’ll be strong defensively.”
July has been good to them in the past. Just two years ago, the Hawaii Kai-based club won the Main Event national tournament’s 13-U division.
Three players on that team - Micaela Bitanga, Kiana Nakai and Cierra Pacheco - play for Eastsidaz’s under-15 team this summer and hope to have a similar run in Las Vegas when they play in the nationals July 26-30.
The 15-U team already played four games in Kalaheo Summer League, beating Kalaheo, Mililani and Castle and losing to Hawaii Select’s traveling All-Star team.
Since they have one of the younger rosters, a 3-1 record bodes well long-term. KSL continues for the next three weeks. Eastsidaz will take five girls teams to Las Vegas at the end of July, but its under-15 team may be its best way to make a statement there.
The club also has Mililani standouts Kellie Sakai and Darcey Goulsby, and MidPacific’s Chandler Arce. Pacheco plays for Waiakea and moved from Hawaii Island to play with the team.
“Kellie is awesome - offensively and defensively,” Bitanga said of Sakai, who started every game last season as a sophomore for Mililani. “She’s an all-around player, the total package. She’s small, but she’s not scared to take it up against anyone.”
At 5-9, Goulsby is a strong post presence. “She’s powerful and strong and she knows the game. She’s very good inside on defense, very hard to beat.”
Arce plays on the perimeter along with Bitanga and Nakai, who also play for Kaiser. “She has a nice 3-point shot - she’s a scorer,” he said of Arce. “Micaela is maturing, and Kiana is good, defensively, and she helps us out offensively because she’s a 90 percent free-throw shooter.”
Led by the pair, Kaiser advanced to the Division II state tournament in the winter, its first tournament appearance in four years.
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