By JOE FERRARO
Like many other teams wanting to hang with run-and-gun Konawaena over the past decade, the Waiakea Warriors tried to slow down the pace, create a tight, low-scoring affair and put themselves in a position to win in the fourth quarter.
Waiakea executed that game plan fairly well, but unfortunately for the Warriors, the Wildcats proved just as proficient running their halfcourt offense as they are running the fast-break Friday in a girls basketball game at Kealakehe.
Chanelle Molina scored 13 points, and Konawaena survived a cold-shooting third quarter to beat Waiakea 41-31 in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division I semifinals.
Konawaena (9-0), West Hawaii’s No. 1 seed, will return to Kealakehe at 7:30 p.m. today to face East Hawaii top seed Hilo (11-0) in the BIIF final.
Both teams will represent the league in the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state tournament, which takes place Feb. 5-8 on Oahu.
Waiakea finished its season 7-4.
Konawaena got to the BIIF final by showing patience in the halfcourt offense, with Hoku Liftee often finding teammates cutting to the basket for easy layups.
“We pretty much have to read what the defense is giving you,’’ Liftee said.
The senior finished with five points, five assists and six rebounds, helping Konawaena shoot 55 percent (11-of-20) in the first half to take a 26-11 lead at the intermission.
The Wildcats did benefit some from its transition game, scoring six fast-break points in the first half, but it also rebounded the ball well, creating second-chance points for themselves and very few for Waiakea.
Senior Courtney Kaupu (eight points) had five rebounds, while freshman Ihi Victor (10 points) and Molina had four apiece.
“We ran a lot of different sets in the first half (to get good shots),’’ Konawaena coach Bobbie Awa said. “We had the shots in the second half. We just didn’t hit them.’’
Konawaena went 1-of-10 from the field in the third quarter, but Waiakea wasn’t much better, going 1-of-5.
“If we made our free throws and made our layups, it would have been much closer,’’ Waiakea coach Grant Kauhi said of his team, which went 4-of-11 from the charity stripe.
Sophomore guard Kaydee Rapozo led the Warriors with 11 points. The second of her two 3-pointers made it 39-27 with 1 minute, 25 seconds remaining, but Waiakea got no closer.
Senior Daven Namohala-Roloos added eight points.
Like Liftee, Waiakea senior Sefulu Faavae also got her teammates involved, finishing with four assists and seven rebounds.
“She’s a very unselfish player,’’ Kauhi said. “She finds the open person. We just didn’t finish.’’
Waiakea 7 4 8 12 — 31
Konawaena 15 11 4 11 — 41
• Honokaa 69, Kohala 33: Despite operating against a 3-2 defense designed to limit points in the paint, they established a strong post game behind Jasmine Castro and Hunter Liftee. Then they couldn’t miss from behind the 3-point arc. They even forced a few turnovers that led to a healthy amount of fast-break points.
In a nutshell, everything the Honokaa Dragons offered at the rim was going in Friday in a girls basketball game at Kealakehe, and the Kohala Cowgirls had a hard time keeping up.
Shayla Ignacio scored 14 points, and Castro followed with 13 as Honokaa defeated Kohala 69-33 in the BIIF Division II tournament semifinals.
With the victory, Honokaa (7-2) advanced to today’s BIIF Division II final at Kealakehe, where they will face five-time defending league champion Kamehameha-Hawaii (8-3) at 6 p.m.
Both teams have earned berths in the HHSAA state tournament, which takes place Feb. 5-8 on Oahu.
As they have done all season, the Dragons displayed some deadly long-distance shooting against the Cowgirls (3-7), who will face Hawaii Prep (5-5) at 4:30 p.m. today in a third-place game that will determine the league’s final state tournament berth.
Honokaa went 7-for-12 on 3-pointers in the contest, including 5-of-6 in the first half to take a 44-16 lead at intermission.
Castro played a role in creating open shots from behind the arc in the first quarter by scoring six quick points in the paint against Kohala’s zone defense.
“They started to double-team (in the post), and we had to work with it and find the open man,’’ Castro said.
That’s exactly what the Dragons did, making their first three treys — Ignacio, Keana Kaohimaunu and Kizzah Maltezo each hit one — in the first quarter.
Maltezo, Liftee, Kaohimaunu finished with 10 points apiece in the contest.
“Going against the zone, you have to able to shoot,’’ Honokaa coach James Lukzen said. “You’re going to get in a lot of trouble if you can’t make some shots.’’
Even though Kohala shot a more-than-respectable 44 percent from the field in the first quarter (4-of-9), they still trailed 22-9 after the first period.
The Dragons’ hot shooting put Kohala in a pick-your-poison situation. Honokaa shot 57 percent from the field in the first half.
“You have to gamble somewhere,’’ Cowgirls coach Julia McPeek said.
Honokaa turned up its defensive pressure in the second quarter, scoring the first 10 points of the period and forcing seven turnovers that led to nine fast-break points.
A Liftee layup with 5 minutes, 41 seconds left in the first half made it 31-9, and Honokaa was well on its way to a BIIF final rematch against Kamehameha.
In last season’s championship game, Honokaa led 32-29 after three quarters before the Warriors rallied for a 45-40 victory.
Lukzen said the Dragons must limit their turnovers and slow down at least one of the Warriors’ two prolific scorers: junior forward Casey Poe and sophomore guard Riana Arima.
“We just have to play hard the whole game and not give up,’’ said Castro, who also pulled down five rebounds. “I know we can do this.’’
Senior guard Sheana Cazimero led Kohala with 14 points.
Meanwhile, McPeek said the Cowgirls will enter their game against Ka Makani with some confidence considering they enjoyed a 16-point lead against HPA in the first meeting between the teams before Ka Makani rallied for a victory.
“They’ll be mentally prepared,’’ McPeek said. “They’ll be ready.’’
Kohala 9 7 12 5 — 33
Honokaa 22 22 17 8 — 69
• Kohala 59, Honokaa 46: The Cowboys dropped a defensive hammer on Honokaa out of the gate, closing the first quarter with a 12-2 lead, and then relied on balanced scoring.
Kala‘i Kapeliela scored 15 points, Makani Kualii 12 and Kealan Figueroa 11 for the host Cowboys (6-3).
Isaiah Maltezo scored 14 points and Keanu Freitas added 13 for the Dragons (4-4).
In the JV game, Honokaa beat Kohala 52-34.
Honokaa 2 10 10 24 — 46
Kohala 12 15 11 21 — 59