By KIM BAXTER
HONOLULU – The last time the Konawaena boys basketball team was in the state tournament, this year’s seniors were mere seventh graders, hoping and dreaming of one day reaching the state’s biggest stage.
So on Thursday, as the fourth-seeded Wildcats made their debut in this year’s Division I HHSAA Championships against Pearl City in the quarterfinals, it is understandable that Konawaena looked a big ragged and out of character. The school was making its first appearance in the state tournament since 2008, when it finished third. And senior starters Brenton Shropshire, Kenan Gaspar and Nick Mims were admittedly nervous before their debut at McKinley High School here in Honolulu.
“For four years playing in high school, we wanted to get here,” said Gaspar, who led all scorers with 12 points. “Every year we had to grow and grow and get better and better. … Everybody was just ready to play and wasn’t going to let this game get away.”
But the Wildcats powered their way to a 44-33 win over an undersized but feisty Pearl City squad that upset Moanalua on Wednesday. With the victory, Konawaena (13-0) advances to today’s semifinals, where it will face top-seeded Maryknoll. Tipoff is 7 p.m. at the Neal Blasidell Center.
Despite the victory, Thursday’s game wasn’t the prettiest of wins, with the team committing 17 turnovers (including seven in the fourth quarter) and shooting a mere 14-for-39 from the field and 14-for-22 from the free-throw line.
“We kind of got caught up in the hoopla and got a little bit sloppy,” said coach Donny Awa. “We worked hard, but it got a little sloppy.”
Early on, the game looked like it would be a runaway. Konawaena surged to a 12-0 lead (sparked by 3-pointers from Gaspar and junior guard Brandon Awa) as Pearl City looked ragged, turning the ball over on four straight possessions.
But that initial surge would be the largest of the game as the Wildcats failed to make a field goal over the next 10 minutes of the game and the Chargers closed to a 17-14 deficit with just 2:41 left in the first half.
The action went up and down the court, but players were unable to find the basket, in part from the aggressive defense and in part from the poor shooting and sloppy ballhandling.
“They like to run, but we thought we might be better than Pearl City in the halfcourt, but it’s like trying to slow down a raging bronco, I guess,” Awa said. “(The Chargers) want to run. So at the end, we just told them to keep attacking, and that’s what we did.”
Konawaena pushed an eight-point halftime lead to 11 points after three quarters, but Pearl City wouldn’t go away. Senior Lawrence “Sonny” Glisson, who had made five 3’s and scored 22 points in Wednesday’s win over Moanalua, was held to just one point through the first three quarters. But he exploded for eight points — with two 3-pointers — to narrow the deficit to 34-29 with 3 ½ minutes to play.
However, Konawaena settled down offensively against Pearl City’s scrambling, trapping defense and scored on four of its next five possessions to put the game away and reach the state semifinals.
The Wildcats reached the semifinals in 2008 but was blown out by Punahou.
• Farrington 57, Kamehameha-Hawaii 56: The Governors outscored the Warriors 23-5 in the third quarter and held on.
Mason Semisi scored 14 points to lead Farrington.
Laa Manliguis scored 15 points, Ilikai Calip 12, Shaun Kagawa 11 and Hanale Lee Loy added four points for the Warriors.
• Hawaii Prep 68, Kapaa 36: Jovan Crnic scored 15 points to lead the Ka Makani, who held a 45-14 halftime lead. Buck Thomas and Kama DeSilva added eight points each.
Kealii Colipano scored eight points to lead the Warriors of the Kauai Interscholatic Federation.
HPA will play St. Francis in the semifinals at 5 p.m. today at Kaimuki High’s Gym.
• Kailua 47, Pahoa 42: The Surfriders went to the free throw line a lot, going 20 of 33. The Daggers didn’t, making 12 of 17.
Nick Fisher and Tolby Saito carried the scoring load, with 24 and 15 points, respectively, for Pahoa, which plays University High at 7 p.m. today at Kalani High’s Gym in consolation action.
Kekoa Ford scored 12 points to lead Kailua.
Konawaena 13 10 9 12 — 44
Pearl City 5 10 6 12 — 33
Farrington 14 6 23 14 — 57
Kamehameha 16 19 5 16 — 56
HPA 23 22 15 8 — 68
Kapaa 8 6 9 13 — 36
Pahoa 8 6 12 16 — 42
Kailua 10 11 16 10 — 47