By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports writer
KAILUA-KONA – The wait is over for Alexis Pana and the Hilo High girls basketball team.
Bring on the defending state champs.
Pana scored 19 points and Vikings coasted past Kealakehe 81-17 on Friday night in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division I semifinals at the Waveriders gym.
The undefeated Vikings (11-0) faced a few tests this season in the East Division, but they figure to get their toughest one yet in the form of West No. 1 seed Konawaena (9-0) when the teams meet in tonight’s 7:30 p.m. title game.
Pana, a freshman, was positively giddy with anticipation.
“I’ve been waiting for this game a long time,” she said. “Since the start of the season.”
The Wildcats, the two-time defending Hawaii High School Athletic Association champions, defeated Waiakea 41-31 in the other semifinal.
“I’m really looking forward to playing (Konawaena), knowing that they have all those ranks and are high,” junior Aliyah Pana said. “I really want to play them.”
Regardless of that outcome, the Vikings already have put an end to a lengthy HHSSA drought, advancing to states for the first time since 1996.
“It’d been 17 years,” coach Ben Pana said. “It’s something we’ve been talking about for the last few practices.”
They earned the trip to states, which start Tuesday on Oahu, by picking apart the Waveriders (0-9).
Hilo started a tad slow, but it led 22-0 by the end of the first quarter. Thanks in large part to Hilo’s full-court man defense -- a staple under Ben Pana, in his fourth season -- Kealakehe didn’t dent the scoreboard until midway through the second quarter.
“We feel more comfortable with our own tempo, pushing the ball, pressuring,” Alexis Pana said.
Junior Alyssa Perreira and freshmen Shalyn Guthier and Faith Loeak each finished with 10 points.
Coach Pana liked his team’s intensity in the easy victory, but necessarily its execution.
“Going into tonight’s game, the execution does have to be better,” he said. “They’re real excited. They have a lot of friends on Konawaena. It will be nice friendly competition with high stakes.”
Kealakehe 0 4 8 5--17
Hilo 22 25 20 14--81