By JOE FERRARO
It might have been one of the most important baskets Casey Poe has ever made. But for Kamehameha-Hawaii’s junior guard, teammate Namele Naipo-Arsiga put forth most of the effort behind the play that gave the Warriors their sixth consecutive Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II girls basketball championship.
Poe scored 16 points, including a go-ahead layup with 15 seconds remaining to give Kamehameha a thrilling 49-48 win over Honokaa Saturday at Kealakehe.
Both the Warriors (9-3) and the Dragons (7-3) will play in the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state tournament, which takes Feb. 5-8 on Oahu.
In a fourth quarter that featured four lead changes in the last three minutes, Naipo-Arsiga drove the lane and missed a runner. She grabbed her own rebound and flipped it to Poe, who calmly made her layup.
“When (Naipo-Arsiga) was falling out of bounds, she threw it up at the last second,’’ Poe said. “It was really good knowing who was around her.’’
Poe, who also grabbed 16 rebounds, then made her presence felt on the defensive end.
Honokaa called two timeouts after Poe’s basket, with the last giving the Dragons possession in the frontcourt with 9.3 second left.
Honokaa guard Kizzah Maltezo delivered an entry pass to Hunter Liftee in the paint, and Poe got her hands on the basketball to force a jump ball, with the possession arrow in the Dragons’ favor with 3.8 seconds remaining.
Honokaa’s Shemika Frazier then drove baseline, and Poe blocked her shot. The ball pinballed off a Dragons player to give Kamehameha possession with 0.2 seconds left.
The game finally came to an end when Honokaa’s Shayla Ignacio deflected the inbounds pass.
“The ball bounced our way, and I couldn’t be happier,’’ Kamehameha coach Garrett Arima said.
As she has done all season, Arima’s daughter, Riana Arima, combined with Poe to form a lethal 1-2 punch for the Warriors.
Honokaa led 29-28 at halftime, but Riana Arima scored 10 of her game-high 23 points in the third quarter, helping Kamehameha take a 36-31 lead with 5:42 left in the period.
But the Dragons rallied behind Maltezo — she closed the third quarter with five straight points to make it 40-38 at the end of the period — and Liftee.
Liftee, who led Honokaa with 20 points, had a putback that gave the Dragons a 48-47 advantage with 1:08 remaining.
The Dragons kept it close despite playing most of the game in foul trouble.
Kamehameha aggressively attacked the basket in the first half, attempting 20 free throws and making 12 of them.
At intermission, Keana Kaohimaunu had four fouls while Shemika Frazier and Jasmine Castro had three apiece.
Poe hit 7 of 10 free throws, and Arima went 3-of-4 from the charity stripe before the half.
However, the Dragons tightened their defense in the second half, drawing three charges — the last one game Poe her fourth foul with 4:39 left in the contest.
Kamehameha attempted just three free throws in the second half.
From the opening tip, Garrett Arima said, the Warriors wanted to attack the basket.
“That’s been the game plan throughout the whole season,’’ he said. “At the end it didn’t work. We got a couple of charges. I’m glad we finished it and overcame it.’’
Honokaa 14 15 9 10 — 48
KS-Hawaii 13 15 12 9 — 49
• Kohala 44, HPA 23: Sheana Cazimero scored a team-high 18 points for Kohala in the third-place game, earning the Cowgirls (4-7) their first state appearance since the 1980s, according to Cowgirls coach Julie McPeak.
“The ball movement was good,’’ Cazimero said. “The defense was good, but it could have been better.’’
“Basketball is life to me, so (the state tournament) means a lot.’’
Junior guard Tiana Reynolds led Hawaii Prep (5-6) with 10 points.
Ka Makani played the game without dynamic junior guard Tiana Bertelmann-Tabac, who suffered an ACL injury late in the regular season.
This season HPA featured a starting lineup with four players who were on the team’s junior varsity squad last year.
“The girls came a long way,’’ Ka Makani coach Craig Kimura said.
Hawaii Prep 7 1 6 9 — 23
Kohala 10 8 16 10 — 44