By KYLE GALDEIRA
Special to Tribune-Herald
HONOLULU — After building a seemingly insurmountable 19-point lead to begin the fourth quarter, Konawaena appeared poised to hoist the girls basketball first-place trophy for a third consecutive year.
However, a scrappy Kamehameha-Oahu squad had other plans. The Warriors put together a 19-0 run to send the game into overtime and outscored the Wildcats 8-2 in the extra frame en route to an improbable 45-39 victory in the title game of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division I state tournament at Neal Blaisdell Center on Friday.
Chanelle Molina notched 16 points, going 7-of-9 from the field to pace Konawaena, but the freshman phenom missed an uncontested layup with 40 seconds remaining in overtime that would have tied the game.
Kamehameha-Oahu sank six free throws down the stretch to ice the win and claim its ninth state championship.
“Things just didn’t go our way. We couldn’t get calls, and we got beat off the glass — that’s just the way it goes,” Konawaena coach Bobbie Awa said when asked to describe her team’s collapse. “We wanted to take back the momentum, but we couldn’t get stops. We had opportunities and missed some real easy layups. We rely a lot on our young girls, and this is a good learning experience for them.”
Kamehameha-Oahu (15-0) received 16 points from Tiare Kanoa, including six free throws in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Lilia Maio added 14 points, including 12 in the fourth and overtime periods, and she hauled in 13 rebounds to complete the double-double effort.
After falling behind by 17 through three quarters, the Warriors began the fourth period with a spirited 12-2 run that energized the home crowd and cut the Konawaena lead to 37-30 with four minutes to play.
Taira Robins-Hardy added two free throws, and with 2 minutes, 8 seconds remaining, Maio scored while being fouled. She made her free throw to bring Kamehameha-Oahu to within two points of the Wildcats.
Konawaena (12-1) played keepaway, and with the lack of a shot clock, held the ball until Molina missed a layup with 1 minute left. The Warriors took advantage, and with 28.5 seconds remaining, Maio corralled an offensive rebound and put back a shot in the paint to even the score at 37.
Molina had a shot to win the game, but after driving past three defenders, her jumper from 15 feet fell short as the regulation clock expired.
Kamehameha-Oahu edged ahead 39-37 on another Maio layup to begin the extra frame and held that advantage until it got the ball back on a rebound with 1:04 to play. But the Warriors turned it right back over as Courtney Kaupu, who scored 11 points for Konawaena, picked off a pass and called a timeout with 51.5 seconds remaining.
Molina got herself wide open on the ensuing inbounds play, but she missed the uncontested layup with 40 seconds left, and Kamehameha collected the rebound. Kanoa drained two free throws after being fouled, and the Warriors took a four-point lead — their largest advantage of the contest to that point.
Konawaena attempted to score a quick bucket but fumbled the possession away to Kanoa, who was fouled again and proceeded to hit both free throws. Ihi Victor answered for the Wildcats, scoring down low to narrow the deficit to 43-39 with 9.5 seconds remaining.
After Breann Nueku hit one of two free throws to put the Warriors up by five, Kanoa stole Konawaena’s inbounds pass and later sank a free throw to ice the win.
Molina scored nearly every way possible, mixing quick layups with step-back jumpers and runners in the lane. The freshman phenom converted all seven of her field goal attempts en route to 14 first-half points.
Konawaena outscored the opposition 11-2 in the second period and took a commanding 22-9 halftime lead.
“She had a great year, and every game she gets better,” Awa said of Molina, who along with the majority of her teammates, was in tears following the turn of events. “She kept her composure, though, and she has a bright future ahead. I lose five seniors, but we have a great group of young girls, and I don’t think they want to remember this feeling.”