Honokaa senior Chancis Fernandez can always look at her left knee as a permanent reminder to the dedication and hard work that led to a historic season for her basketball team.
She sat out her junior season in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation, after transferring from Hawaii Prep. The 5-foot-6 guard didn’t take it easy, quite the opposite.
Fernandez had to put in a lot of time getting her knee back into shape, after surgery on her ACL and meniscus. Back at her hometown school, she capped her final season in the BIIF averaging 13.0 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 6 steals per game.
She was voted the BIIF Player of the Year in Division II by the league’s coaches, after leading the Dragons to their first league title since 2001, before statewide classification in 2004.
Fernandez, no relation to the E.K. Fernandez carnival shows, made the All-BIIF second team for the West Division in 2011. As a freshman, she received honorable mention.
“I didn’t expect it and it’s exciting to know I got it,” she said. “It’s really important to me because I came back after not playing last year. I came back and put out for my team. I couldn’t have gotten the award without them.”
Even better, Fernandez was the leader of a team-first-thinking Honokaa squad that captured the school’s first title at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II state championships.
“She played hard all the time, had a lot of hustle and did a lot of little things,” Honokaa coach Daphne Honma said. “She came up with big plays, played tough defense and played with confidence and showed good leadership. It was a combination of all those things, plus she’s a good athlete, that made her stand out.”
And in the spirit of team harmony, four of her teammates were recognized: senior forward Hunter Liftee and senior guard Shemika Frazier, first team; junior guard Shayla Ignacio, second team; and sister and junior forward Eliyah Fernandez, honorable mention.
Liftee is a first-team repeat while Igancio is a second-team repeat from a year ago.
Kamehameha senior Casey Poe, a two-time player of the year and three-time first-team pick, and junior guard Riana Arima and Hawaii Prep senior guard Tiana Bertelmann-Tabac round out the first team.
Arima is a first-team repeat while Bertelmann-Tabac was on the second team last year.
“Our team was really special. We all knew what we needed to do,” Fernandez said. “We all felt unselfish and nobody had to be No. 1. Everybody knew their role and the game plan.
“It was amazing to win states with my sister. It brought us all closer as a team for me and my sister. One of our goals coming back to Honokaa was to bring home that state title. Doing it with her made it much more meaningful to me.”
On the big stages Fernandez provided all-around value. In the state championship finale, she scored 12 points on 3 of 6 shooting and grabbed six rebounds to complement Liftee, who had a double-double with 24 points on 9 of 12 shooting and 12 boards, in Honokaa’s 54-35 victory over Kamehameha. At the BIIF championship, Fernandez scored 19 points on 7 of 10 shooting and had seven rebounds as the Dragons topped the Warriors 54-32.
She was named to the state’s All-Tournament Division II team, along with Poe, Arima and Liftee, who was voted the Most Outstanding Player.
Fernandez credits her dad, Kelii Fernandez, and youth coach Mason Souza, who ran the Paauilo gym, for teaching her the game’s fundamentals as a youngster. Those were her early good memories.
The scar on her left knee is also a memory, and not necessarily a negative one.
During the summer going into her junior year, she tore her ACL and meniscus in a women’s league game. She didn’t know it at the time, but her left knee was in really bad shape.
Still, after the injury Fernandez felt no pain and continued to play ball. However, after layups her knee would buckle. Her mom Charlene Fernandez, who’s a medical biller, figured something was wrong.
“I switched doctors and found out that I needed surgery,” Fernandez said. “I lost all the muscles in my leg. Nothing was connected. My surgery was three hours. My mom was panicking because in one hour it was supposed to be done.
“The surgeon told us it was 8 out of 10 and any worse and it would be unlikely the knee could be repaired. But I never got down and wanted to play with whatever I had. I was determined, motivated and wanted to bring leadership to my team.”
That’s what Honma enjoyed about Fernandez, who has a 3.8 grade-point average, and is keeping her college options open. Someone was needed to steer Honokaa’s ship. It was Fernandez who led the Dragons on a historic voyage to a state championship.
“She led by example, worked hard and was very coachable,” Honma said. “She did things we asked her to do. At the same time, in her own quiet way she talked to the kids. She took them under her wing and was a friend and leader to everybody.
“She did all the little things to help our team move in the right direction. On any given night, anybody could have been our go-to person. They played well all season and the fact that they worked hard for each other was a big factor in our success.”