By BILL O’REAR
Tribune-Herald sports editor
KEAAU — With the Big Island Interscholastic Federation regular season winding down at warp speed, Waiakea needed a confidence-boosting win and the Warriors earned one Friday night.
Senior Sefulu Faavae scored 12 points to go along with 12 rebounds, three steals, three assists and two blocked shots and sophomore Kaydee Rapozo had 11 points and a terrific sparkplug performance to lead the visiting Division I Warriors to a 47-37 win over D-II Kamehameha at Koaia Gym.
“We needed a strong win,” Waiakea coach Grant Kauhi said. “This was our best finish to a game this season. We held them to only eight points in the second half and really cut down on our turnovers.”
The public-school Warriors improved to 4-3 in the East Division and set their sights on claiming the East’s No. 2 seed in the upcoming D-I playoffs behind unbeaten Hilo (7-0). Kamehameha, which got a 13-point, 18-rebound effort from junior Casey Poe, fell to 5-2.
“This is a win we want to build on,” Kauhi said. “We’re asking all of our players to play their roles to help the team. Tonight, we played really good defense in the second half and showed a lot of patience on offense. We were able to take advantage of some mismatches we had and we made a couple of key free throws down the stretch.”
Kamehameha, under coach Garrett Arima, came out strong, led by the multi-talented Poe, a junior point forward. The hosts held an 18-9 lead at the end of the first quarter and took a 29-25 lead into the intermission. But Waiakea was able to make some adjustments and turned the game around in the third period, outscoring the hustling private-school Warriors 12-2 to grab a 37-31 lead heading into the final eight minutes.
“At halftime, we asked our girls to pick up the defensive intensity and cut out Kamehameha’s dribble penetration,” Kauhi said. “In the first half, they scored most of their points by attacking the basket or getting layups out in transition.
“In the second half, we were able to shut that down.”
In the fourth period, Waiakea outpointed the hosts 10-6, running a lot of time off the clock each possession before trying to get a quality shot or draw a foul.
Rapozo, a quick point guard, hit a layup early in the final quarter to make it 39-31 before Kamehameha sophomore Riana Arima banked in a putback at the 6:36 mark to slice the margin to 39-33. But the visitors answered again with Faavae draining a layup and then tossing a nifty pass to junior forward Shaila Apele for an easy basket to stretch the cushion to 43-33 with 5:21 left.
Sophomore Maka Gabriel powered in a basket on Kamehameha’s next possession to make it 43-35. However, Faavae drove between two private-school Warriors to muscle in a 4-foot floater to push the lead back to 10, at 45-35 at the 3:49 mark. Apele, who had nine rebounds and two blocked shots to support Faavae in the paint, then sank one of two free throws at 2:55 to give the visitors their biggest lead of the evening, at 46-35.
Then after Arima scored on a putback, Apele added another free throw at 1:32 to close scoring.
Poe led the hosts with her 13 points, but all came in the first half. Arima never found her offensive groove and finished with 12 points, including four in the second half.
Apele followed Rapozo with eight points — and for the fourth straight game, had eight or more rebounds.
“Shaila has been real steady on the boards,” Kauhi said. “She crashes the boards and plays solid defense.”
Rapozo teamed with sophomore Nicole Antonio and senior Keani Shirai to provide Waiakea with composed ballhandling for most of the contest against the aggressive pressure defense of the host Warriors. Rapozo also scored nine of her 11 points in the first half, including a 3-pointer, to keep the visitors in the game.
“Katie had some early turnovers and got frustrated,” Kauhi said. “Then we took her out and she relaxed. When she got back in, she attacked the basket and made some key baskets. She gave us a spark, played good defense and even got some rebounds.
“Katie did a good job for us and overall as a team, we played really solid defense in the second half to help us pull out the win.”
But it was Faavae who led the way throughout the hard-fought contest.
“It feels good to get this win,” she said. “Tonight, I wanted to attack the basket and when the defense came, I looked to pass to our open shooters.”
The strategy worked, especially in the final half, when Waiakea outscored Kamehameha 22-8.
Kamehameha coach Arima was not available for comment after the game.
In junior varsity action, Waiakea edged Kamehameha 45-40. Christa Amuimuia led the visitors with 16 points. Kyla Aguiar topped the host Warriors with 18 points and Alyssa Asuncion had 13.
Waiakea 9 16 12 10 — 47
Kamehameha 18 11 2 6 — 37
• Hilo 67, Keaau 32: At Keaau, Aliyah Pana scored 17 points and Alexis Pana and Alyssa Perreira each had 11 to lead the unbeaten D-I Vikings (7-0) past the D-I Cougars (2-5).
Maedina Ongais-Kilaulani scored 14 points to lead Keaau.
In the JV game, Hilo rolled to a 54-11 victory. Faith Loeak led the Vikings with 16 points while Kyra Kaloi and Rain Hall added 12 and 10, respectively.
Hilo 14 16 26 11 — 67
Keaau 5 16 2 9 — 32
• Hawaii Prep 40, Kohala 24: At Waimea, Tiana Reynolds scored 12 points and Tiana Bertlemann-Tabac 10 to lead the D-II Ka Makani (4-2) over the D-II Cowgirls (1-5).
Tezrah Antonio scored eight points to lead Kohala.
Kohala 7 4 5 8 — 24
Hawaii Prep 12 12 7 9 — 40
• Pahoa 41, Ka’u 28: At Pahala, Randi Berinobis poured in a game-high 24 points to lead the D-II Daggers (2-5) past the D-II Trojans (1-6).
Shyann Flores Carvalho scored 10 points to lead Ka’u.
In JV play, Ka’u beat Pahoa 44-33 behind 16 points from Deisha Gascon and 10 from Kerrilynn Domondon. Makela Rincon had 14 and Golden Rowan 10 for the Daggers.
Pahoa 10 7 14 10 — 41
Ka’u 2 11 6 9 — 28
Konawaena 51, Honokaa 28: Freshman guard Chanelle Molina led a balanced attack with 12 points at Onizuka Gymnasium as the Wildcats earned their 53rd consecutive BIIF victory.
Senior guard Hoku Liftee added 11 points, and senior forward Courtney Kaupu followed with 10 for Konawaena (5-0).
Junior forward Hunter Liftee paced Honokaa (4-2) with seven points, while senior guards Yvonne Daniels and Keana Kaohimaunu had six apiece.
Honokaa 8 5 6 9 — 28
Konawaena 15 13 13 10 — 51
Playoffs coming up fast
In Division I, there will be a play-in game between the East No. 3 seed and West No. 2 seed Kealakehe to earn a berth in the Feb. 1 semifinals at Kealakehe High School. The East Division’s No. 1 seed, Hilo, will take on the play-in winner, while West No. 1 Konawaena will play the East's No. 2 seed. The semifinal winners advance to the title game on Feb. 2 at Kealakehe and both clinch berths in the 12-team state D-I tournament (Feb. 6-9) on Oahu.
In D-II, the East Division’s No. 1 seed and West No. 1 seed will draw first-round byes. In opening-round games at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30, East No. 2 will host West No. 3 and West No. 2 will host East No. 3. The semifinals and final will be held at the Kealakehe High gym.
In the semifinals Feb. 1, West No. 1 seed will battle the East No. 2/West No. 3 winner while East No. 1 seed will take on the West No. 2/East No. 3 winner. The semifinal winners advance to the title game on Feb. 2 and both clinch berths in the 12-team state D-II tournament (Feb. 6-9) on Oahu.
The semifinal losers will play for the BIIF’s third berth in the state tournament on Feb. 2.
The state D-II tournament will be played Feb. 6-9 on Oahu.