Big Island Interscholastic Federation history was made on Wednesday at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association girls state basketball tournament when four teams qualified for the semifinals.
Since statewide classification in 2004, the league has swept state titles — twice, actually, in 2007 and last season with Konawaena in Division I and Kamehameha in Division II doing the honors. But the BIIF has never placed four teams in the semifinals for either boys or girls, until a historic Wednesday.
Kamehameha and Honokaa got there the hard way. The Warriors struggled early, but found a way to win. The Dragons had their hands full, and needed a layup with three seconds left to advance.
When Casey Poe and Riana Arima carry the scoring load, Kamehameha is in good shape, even if the defending Division II state champion gets off to a slow start and trails through the third quarter.
Poe scored 18 points and Arima added 17 to lift the Warriors over University High 54-48 in the quarterfinals, an occasional stumbling block, on Wednesday at Kaimuki High’s Gym.
The Warriors (10-3) play Hanalani (9-3) in the semifinals at 7 p.m. Thursday at Kalani High Gym in a game that ended after the Tribune-Herald’s deadline.
Last year, Hawaii Prep, which didn’t make states this season, stunned Radford, the No. 1 seed and the defending state champ at the time, 48-45 in the quarterfinals.
With that in mind, Kamehameha coach Garrett Arima was glad to get past the Junior Rainbows (8-3) and put the clamps on their counter-punching scoring duo of Kianalei Machida and Markayisha Masani. They had 19 points and 14 points, respectively, in a 54-42 first-round win over Saint Francis.
“We squeaked out another win. We couldn’t get in sync offensively from the beginning of the game,” he said. “We started off slow, got into foul trouble and didn’t execute offensively. It was a long first half.”
The good news was the Warriors didn’t dig themselves into a deep hole. They trailed just 26-25 at halftime. They relied on defense and held Machida and Masani to 12 points each.
“We put on at least more defensive pressure, not our half-court trap, but a full man,” Arima said. “We got more in sync and Riana hit a big trey (Kamehameha’s only 3-pointer) in the third quarter, and drove to the lane. That brought us back into the game and at that point we took the lead.”
Then the experience of playing in big games at states kicked in. When UH, the Interscholastic League of Honolulu runner-up, attempted to rally, the Warriors didn’t hit the panic button. They did all the little things champions do.
“Once we took the lead, we were fine,” Arima said. “Our composure was evident. We maintained ball-control and ball-possession and made our free throws down the stretch. I told the team that ball-possession and free throws would win this game. We hit big free throws at the end.”
The Warriors also got offensive help from their other starters. Namele Naipo-Arsiga added 10 points and Chyann Gabriel had seven points. The contributions all helped to continue a journey that only climbs in difficulty.
“We found a way to get through this one,” said Arima, with a sense of relief in his voice. “Every game after gets harder. The next one will definitely be harder. We have to come out strong and be ready to go.”
• Honokaa 37, Hawaii Baptist 35: Hunter Liftee scored 23 points, including a go-ahead layup with three seconds left, to push the Dragons past the Eagles in a thrilling quarterfinal at Kalani High’s Gym.
After the Eagles tied it 35-35 with 1:01 left, the two teams traded turnovers. Then Liftee scored from the left side following an inbounds pass. HBA called timeout with 2.5 seconds on the clock, but a Hail Mary 35-foot shot at the buzzer bounced off the backboard.
Keana Kaohimaunu and Shayla Ignacio added six points each for the Dragons (9-3), who led 16-5 after the first quarter but just 19-17 at halftime.
Stephanie Dang scored nine points to lead Hawaii Baptist.
Honokaa played Kauai High (9-0), the No. 2 seed and last season’s state runner-up, in the semifinals at 5 p.m. Thursday at Kalani.
The Dragons will have to figure out a way to stop Kauai’s Kristie Henry, who torched Kailua for 30 points in a 51-42 quarterfinal win.
Honokaa 16 3 10 8 — 37
Hawaii Baptist 5 12 7 11 — 35
• McKinley 66, Kohala 47: It was a two-game exit for the Cowgirls (4-9), who experienced a rude welcome back to the state tournament, appearing for the first time since 1981 as the BIIF’s No. 3 team.
Tezrah Antonio nailed four 3-pointers for 13 points while Briana Harrison added 10 points, Sheana Cazimero nine and Hauoli Sproat-Lancaster eight for Kohala, which trailed 33-21 at halftime at Kalani High’s Gym.
Taisha Thomas scored 18 points while Mariz Navarro and Miranda Schmillen had 14 each for the Tigers (9-6), the Oahu Interscholastic Association’s No. 3 team.
The Cowgirls lose only one senior in Cazimero, the team’s most consistent scorer throughout the season. She had 18 points in a 56-43 first-round loss to Kailua.
McKinley 10 23 14 19 — 66
Kohala 8 13 18 8 — 47
Kailua 56, Kohala 43: Junior Kahoa Mikaele scored 15 points as the Surfriders won a Division II first-round game Tuesday at Kalani.
Senior Sheana Cazimero led the Cowgirls, the BIIF third-place team, with 18 points. Freshman Na‘ai Solomon-Lewis contributed nine points for Kohala, which will face McKinley at 3 p.m. today in a consolation game at Kalani.
Sophomore Patria Vaimoana added 14 points for Kailua of the OIA.
Kohala 5 11 13 14 – 43
Kailua 15 19 12 10 – 56