By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports writer
KAILUA-KONA — Kamehameha built its Big Island Interscholastic Federation basketball empire on defense. So when coach Garrett Arima noticed a mixup in the early-going of Friday’s semifinal against Hawaii Prep, he let daughter Riana Arima know about it with a quick scolding.
“We had to get her rolling,” the coach said. “As the game went on, we got tune.”
You could say that.
The sophomore more than got the message on the defensive end, and the Warriors turned a wave of turnovers into a virtual layup drill for Arima and junior Casey Poe.
Arima scored a career-high 25 points and Poe added 24 in a 61-32 victory against the Ka Makani at Kealakehe High, giving the Warriors a chance to play for their sixth consecutive Division II title.
“Our key is shutdown defense,” Poe said.
And not just in the semifinal. Kamehameha (8-3) had some tinkering to do at the beginning of the season with three new starters, but building around Poe, they’re back where they always are: the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament, which starts Tuesday on Oahu.
“We’ve grown a lot,” said Poe, who never had a doubt that her season would end on Oahu. “The goal always remains the same.”
Sophomore Chyann Gabriel added 10 points as the Warriors beat HPA (5-5) at BIIFs for the sixth straight year to advance to their ninth consecutive state tournament. First, in a rematch of last year’s tight BIIF final, Honokaa (7-2) will try to flip the script at 6 p.m. today. The Dragons beat Kohala 69-33 in the other semifinal.
“It’s great to be back in the final, no matter who you have,” Garrett Arima said. “Hopefully, we haven’t peaked too early. We’re getting where we need to be.”
Junior Tiana Reynolds led the Ka Makani with 14 points and sophomore Ula Brostek added eight. HPA was playing without an injured Tiana Bertelmann-Tabac, a point guard and deft ball-handler that coach Craig Kimura would have liked to have had to try and solve the Warriors’ full-court press and full-court man.
“Something like 20 turnovers in the first half,” Kimura said. “Bad passing and not enough cuts. When we did cut, we didn’t make the pass. If we would have moved more, we would have been all right.”
Instead. One minute, coach was yelling at daughter for a defensive lapse.
“I’m used to it,” the sophomore said.
The next minute, Warriors guards were harassing HPA ball-handlers as Poe, 5-foot-9, stood near midcourt and used her long arms to deflect passes and clog throwing lanes. As a result, the Ka Makani had more turnovers in the first half than shots attempted, and Poe and Arima often had a free path to the basket.
“They were getting frustrated,” Poe said
Kamehameha used 11-0 and 8-0 runs in the first quarter to take control, and the Warriors held HPA scoreless for the first 4:45 of the second quarter to build its lead to 20.
“We expect it from Casey. She’s just so long,” Garrett Arima said. “Defense is our bread and butter. Like we always say, the best offense is a good defense.”
The Ka Makani still can advance to their eighth straight state tournament with a win against the Cowgirls (3-7) at 4:30 p.m. today in the third-place game.
“(States) is always the goal,” Kimura said. “The are girls doing exactly what they’re supposed to. This falls on me. The coaches just need to find better ways to make the girls understand.”
That’s something Arima and many of her teammates have done this season.
Last year, Arima was a part-time contributor as the Warriors won their third state title behind Poe’s MVP performance. Now, Arima is developed into a key second scoring option and plays the points at times.
She likes the direction this team is going.
“We’ve grown stronger and more confident,” she said. “And we have Casey.”
However, there’s likely not much more she can do to avoid further scoldings.
“I yell at her all the time,” Garrett Arima said with a smile.
Hawaii Prep 7 5 10 10 — 32
Kamehameha 22 13 14 12 —61