Online Extra: Kona, HPA in first all-Big Isle D2 state final
By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
HONOLULU — Konawaena and Hawaii Prep will get a dream rubber match, and no matter who wins the Big Island Interscholastic Federation will bring home a state title.
The Wildcats and Ka Makani brought out the brooms and swept their opponents in the semifinals of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II girls volleyball state championships.
Kona chopped down Waimea 25-20, 25-14, 25-20, and HPA blistered Saint Francis 25-18, 25-21, 25-20 on Thursday night at McKinley High's gym, creating the first All-BIIF finale in the nine-year history of the Division II state tourney.
The BIIF runner-up Wildcats (17-3) play HPA (15-3) for the state championship at 7 p.m. today at McKinley High's gym.
The BIIF's last state title was in 1974, won by Hilo, but that was before statewide classification started in 2005.
During the BIIF regular season, the Wildcats swept HPA. Then in the BIIF Division II championship, HPA defeated Kona in five sets for its third title in four years.
Against Kauai Interscholastic Federation champion Waimea, Chanelle Molina produced a double-double18 kills and 13 digs to lead the Wildcats, who had valuable contributions from her sister Celena Molina (eight kills, 18 digs), McKenna Ventura (seven kills), Kaela Avanilla (five kills) and Makani Wall (23 assists).
"I feel excited two Big Island teams are in the championship," said Celena Molina, a freshman setter/hitter. "They beat us in the BIIF final, and we're going for revenge. I'm also excited that both teams are representing the Big Island.
"We have to play smart against HPA on every swing. They've got a lot of height and we can't let our guard down."
Her sophomore sister was on the same wavelength about beating HPA.
"HPA is smart. They know where to place their hits and blocks," said Chanelle Molina, who had smart hitting against Waimea. "They were playing their back row deep and that allowed me to use my roll or tip shots over their blockers. I wanted to be smart with my hitting, going line or angle, whatever was open.
"We wanted to face HPA in the championship. After they won their semifinal, we really wanted to win. It's a chance for us to redeem ourselves. We're really hungry for a state title."
Meanwhile, Ventura, who transferred from HPA, had a different take on her new school's milestone state semifinal victory.
"It was a good game," said the sophomore middle/opposite. "We finally played up to our level. It was one of our best matches. Everyone went all out. We had a chance to shine and we took that opportunity and made it happen.
"I'm happy that the Big Island is getting notice. I knew two Big Island teams could be in the championship. We showed that we can compete as well as anyone else in the state."
Lei Alejandro had seven kills while Talia Young and Kawena Warren each added five kills for the Menehune.
Against two-time defending state champion Saint Francis, Gabbie Ewing pounded 27 kills and had eight digs to lead HPA.
Ka Makani coach Sharon Peterson believes Ewing's strength is her heart, the enthusiasm she carries with every swing and the emotional charge she injects into her teammates.
If so, her other vital attribute is her head. Her smart hitting approach is to take a peek at the block before she swings.
Case in point: Saint Francis was pulling its far-side blocker behind the double block to take away her tip. The three backcourt Saints played middle-up, a half-moon defense to clog the heart of the floor.
That left the far side of the net open as well as the corners. Ewing saw that and tipped a soft shot to the open floor for one of her kills. She also used a two-handed shot for a deep corner attempt.
The Saints switched back to the standard perimeter defense, but Ewing still found the floor, jumping high and hitting hard, much like the Molina sisters.
In fact, they are all teammates on Konawaena coach Ainsley Keawekane's Hoopa club team.
It's no wonder that Ewing and the Molina sisters play the same style, relying on their athletic ability, smarts and quick arm swings to put down balls.
All those passing reps surely help because they're all seasoned and poised ball-handlers, especially the limber Celena Molina, who delivers balls on a dime to fellow setter Makani Wall.
"What everybody doesn't recognize is that without Makani you can't operate the offense and get big hits," said Keawekane, Kona's first-year coach. "She's like the quarterback passing the ball. She makes it all happen. She's a leader for us, and she's excited to be in the championship."
The Wildcats reached the semifinals for the first time the hard way — taking down No. 1 seed and Interscholastic League of Honolulu champion University High in the quarterfinals.
Kona beat the Jr. Bows in four sets behind a cast of strong play from Chanelle Molina (28 kills, five blocks, seven digs), Celena Molina (seven kills, 21 digs), Ventura (11 kills) and Avanilla (11 kills, 10 digs, three blocks).
It's the farthest the Wildcats have advanced. Last season, they lost to the ILH's La Pietra in five in the first round and took seventh. In 2011, they topped Radford in the first round, lost to No. 1 seed Hawaii Baptist in the quarterfinals, and placed fifth.
Another milestone victory is on the line for either the Wildcats or Ka Makani: a Division II state championship.
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