By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
The Hilo High girls basketball team is unbeaten and has looked pretty dominant, creating turnovers, scoring on easy layups, and showing the type of discipline that champions use as another weapon.
On Tuesday night at Kawananakoa Gym, the Vikings hammered Keaau 61-23 in a Big Island Interscholastic Federation game, highlighting leukemia awareness and honoring Wade Ishibashi, who died of the blood-related disease, and cancer survivor Lexi Spence.
Ishibashi, the former Keaau boys basketball coach, died Nov. 16, 2008. He was 42. He is survived by wife Denise, sons Aukai and Haku, and daughters Kirsten and Kristen. He named his landscaping company Rise and Shine.
The Vikings passed out bright orange T-shirts with Ishibashi’s initials on the front and a No. 6 on the back. That was the number he wore for his Delirious club team.
Spence, who was accompanied by her dad, Dan Spence, sang the national anthem. She was a sophomore on the junior varsity in 2010 when she was diagnosed with leukemia. She received a bone-marrow transplant Jan. 26, 2011 in Portland, and is in remission (no signs of cancer blasts in her blood system).
“I’m glad Lexi came down to be with us,” Hilo coach Ben Pana said. “Before the game, I got emotional when I saw the Ishibashi family walk in the gym. I felt Wade’s presence that he was watching us.
“Lexi’s got a beautiful voice. My wish is to have her on my iPad one day, if she can cut an album. You’ve got to give it to the girl. She’s got a beautiful voice.”
When Ishibashi became the Cougars coach in 2003, one his assistants was Pana. Aukai Ishibashi later took over. The tribute stirred fond memories of his father.
“Basketball was 10 percent. The rest was all about teaching life lessons,” he said. “My dad was about the kids. Basketball was just a tool to get them on a great path to life.
“Ben is the closest thing to my dad. He has the same gamebook of style, keeping it old school.”
The Vikings scored a dozen layups off Keaau turnovers. They maintained good spacing in half-court sets, when the up-tempo game wasn’t resembling a track meet. And everyone shared the ball, even on fast-breaks, passing up a potential two points to feed a more open teammate.
Sharlei Graham-Bernisto scored 12 points, Aliyah Pana 11 and Raevyn Kaupu seven for the Vikings (2-0).
Taylor Pocock scored seven points and Birolena Vaoga three to lead the Cougars.
“I liked that we got the ball into the post and limited our turnovers,” Ben Pana said. “The biggest job for us is playing at a high level. Sometimes, when we pull away early we’ll get bad habits, stuff we don’t see in practice.”
The Vikings will likely get their toughest test of the year today against their first-round opponent in the Iolani Classic on Oahu, which runs through Saturday. They face Westview (Ore.), ranked second in the state’s 6A division.
Their best player is senior forward Jaime Nared, a Tennessee commit. She averaged 23 points and 10 rebounds per game last season.
Last season Hilo qualified for the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state tournament for the first time since 1996. The Vikings lost to Kamehameha-Kapalama in the semifinals, and eventually finished third.
For so long, Konawaena and Waiakea have made annual trips to states while Honokaa made occasional appearances. Hilo finally broke though with a relatively young team; Aliyah Pana, the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year, is one of five seniors.
“The path to the ultimate goal is right there in front of us,” Hilo coach Pana said. “We have to learn how to take care of games, ourselves and just take care of business, play disciplined and stay motivated.
“This trip will help us with quality teams. It’ll be good for us. That’s one of the things we stress to the girls when we take them to the mainland is to play up to that level. If we continue to execute and stick to our gameplan we’ll be competitive.”
Molina scores 45
In 2013, Chanelle Molina already has led Konawaena to a Hawaii High School Athletic Association title in volleyball and a state runner-up finish in basketball. Molina went out and added another memorable night to her banner year Tuesday in Pahala.
The sophomore guard scored 45 points as the Wildcats coasted past Ka’u 69-11, showing why it’s little wonder the University of Hawaii has offered her a scholarship.
With the win, Konawaena improved to 2-0.
Denisha Navarro scored six points for the Trojans (0-2).
Kona 22 29 15 3—69
Ka’u 3 3 3 2—11
Honokaa 52, Kealakehe 8: Chancis Fernandez scored 13 points and the Dragons held the Waveriders scoreless in the second and third quarters to easily win at home.
Shereena Bird added 10 points for Honokaa (2-0).
The Waveriders, who got two points apiece from four different players, fell to 1-1.
In junior varsity, Honokaa won 66-15.
Keal. 2 0 0 6 —8
Hon. 19 12 13 8—52
Kamehameha 45, Waiakea 20: Casey Poe scored 13 points, Riana Arima added 11 and Caitlin Poe had nine as host Kamehameha held Waiakea scoreless in the first quarter and never let up defensively to improve to 2-0.
“We blocked out well and only gave Waiakea one opportunity each time,” Kamehameha coach Garrett Arima said. “Waiakea didn’t shoot that well and we kept up our intensity the entire game. Good man-to-man defense, and we switched some things.”
Shaila Apele led Waiakea (0-2) with seven points, and Kaydee Rapozo had six.
In JV, Waiakea won 45-36.
Waiakea 0 4 7 9—20
Kam 16 4 11 14—45
Kohala 70, Laupahoehoe 4: Jenni Fong tallied 20 points and three assists in Kapauu as the Cowgirls ran their record to 2-0.
The Seasiders fell to 0-2.