Northern Star: Taya and Shaily Hakamaki
For this week's segment, meet cousins on the Cromwell-Wright girls basketball team who are hoping to make history in their final season.
CROMWELL, Minn. – When you go to a Cromwell-Wright girls basketball game, you’re bound to hear the name Hakamaki blasting through the gym. But seniors Taya and Shaily are just two of many Hakamakis who have worn the red and white colors.
“Long line of Hakamakis have gone through. I’m kind of the baby, we’re getting there. We have one more younger one,” senior point guard Taya Hakamaki said.
After five seasons, the cousins are in the final year together with the Cardinals.
“It’s definitely exciting this year in our last year and we’re really good. It’s sad knowing that I’ll never be a Cardinal again,” senior forward Shaily Hakamaki said.
This Hakamaki duo is a big reason for the Cardinals recent success. In the past five years, Cromwell-Wright made it to state twice, and they’re currently 14-1 on the season, with the sole loss coming at the hands of the defending state champions Minneota during the season opener.
“It shows that we have work to get to state and we have to work hard if we want to get to state, since they’re the top ranked team in the state right now,” Taya said.
Since then, the Cardinals are undefeated. Taya is currently in the top 10 in the state in scoring, averaging just over 26 points per game, while Shaily is chipping in with over 18 points per game of her own.
“They’re two of the best athletes that we’ve had here and on top of being good athletes, highly-skilled basketball players, shooting, ball-handling, defense, they can do it all,” Cromwell-Wright head coach Jeff Gronner said.
And they work well together on the court, with both of them being in the starting lineup since they were freshman. But the two of have been working together for much longer.
“We’re close. We’ve grew up together, we’ve been playing basketball since second grade together. It’s been a long run but we’re really tight,” Taya said.
“We’ve always been close since we were really little, we grew up right next door. It’s amazing getting to play with her all of these years and being successful with her. We know how to read each other really well. We just have a special connection I guess, we’ve always had it,” Shaily added.
“Taya’s always throwing full length passes and Shaily’s always going up and getting them, and that’s something I’ve been seeing them doing on the court since they’ve been in third or fourth grade. You can tell that they’ve played a lot of ball together, not just here but at home too,” Gronner said.
The years of hard work and practice paid off for both cousins. In April, Taya committed to the University of Minnesota Duluth, then just a few months later, Shaily decided to join her cousin as a member of the Bulldogs women’s basketball squad.
“It’s always been my dream school. The team and the coaches are amazing. It’s just a good environment,” Taya said.
“I was set on UMD for a while, it’s always felt like home to me. I’m glad I chose it and I’m excited to play with her again,” Shaily added.
But before the Hakamakis head over to UMD, they have some unfinished business to take care of: getting back to the state tournament and making history for a team that has meant so much to their entire family.
“It’s just been amazing, and building relationships with my friends and my cousins and my sister when she played too. It was really good, it was fun,” Taya said.
“I’ve loved every minute and moment of it. I think once I moved on, I’m definitely going to miss being here and I’m going to try to come back to as many games and things as I can because this was a good place. It’s definitely a dream, it’s something that you have to work hard for and we definitely do that in practice. I think we’re ready and that’d be amazing, first championship in Cromwell history; that’d be nice,” Shaily added.