By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
KEAAU — In a spirited do-or-die game that featured high intensity and a ton of free throws, Kohala found a way to survive, coming up with clutch plays time and again when every possession felt so precious.
Most of all, the Cowgirls maintained their poise a little better and beat Ka Makani 45-35 in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II girls basketball third-place game Saturday at Keaau High’s gym.
Tezrah Antonio scored 16 points, including seven in the fourth quarter, to spark Kohala (6-6), which lost top scorers Hauoli Sproat-Lancaster and Naai Solomon-Lewis to foul trouble early in the fourth period.
But all game long, the Cowgirls rebounded much better and made timely free throws before Sproat-Lancaster and Solomon-Lewis fouled out. Solomon-Lewis contributed nine points and Sproat-Lancaster added six points.
Anna Juan scored 12 points, Ula Brostek 10 and Tiana Bertelmann-Tabac had six points for HPA (5-8), which loses three seniors, including starters Bertelmann-Tabac and Veronica LeSuer, off their nine-player roster.
Kohala clinched its second straight berth to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II state tournament. Last season, Kohala defeated HPA 44-23, earning a state berth for the first time since 1991.
It’s the second straight year HPA is staying home, after securing state berths seven straight times from 2006 to ‘12.
In Friday’s 67-28 semifinal loss to Kamehameha,the Cowgirls stubbed their toe with 34 turnovers. Against HPA, they handled the ball with better security and finished with just 24 giveaways. Ka Makani had 30 giveaways, mostly very harmful at inopportune times.
Both teams struggled mightily from the field. The Cowgirls shot 24 percent (15 of 63); Ka Makani converted at 20 percent (8 of 41), the shot disparity because of Kohala’s more efficient glass cleaning.
From the start, the ferocious tempo led to a lot of fould and both teams got into the double bonus early in the second quarter, which turned into a free throw contest. HPA made 9 of 12 from the line; Kohala went 4 of 8.
The game really got interesting when Brostek made one of two free throws to get HPA within 37-36 with 1:25 remaining. After Mohala Kaholoaa-Kumukoa answered with one of two free throws for Honokaa, Brostek rebounded, raced down the floor but had her layup attempt rim out.
That was as close as HPA got. The next three trips down the court, the Cowgirls were fouled, made the first free throw, missed the second but grabbed the subsequent rebound — daggers when Ka Makani needed possessions.
Kohala coach Adam Harrison breathed a sigh of relief after the nail-biter was over, especially after Antonio buried a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“We were a little bit better on turnovers, but they played hard,” he said. “We got into foul trouble. But the girls pulled together and played their hearts out. So I guess our girls deserved it.”
Hawaii Prep 7 13 6 11 — 35
Kohala 8 13 9 15 — 45