By KYLE GALDEIRA
Stephens Media Hawaii
HONOLULU — In advance of Friday evening’s matchup with Molokai, Honokaa senior center Hunter Liftee was asked to evaluate the impending clash with the Farmers.
“I think we got this,” she replied matter-of-factly. The post player’s confidence stemmed from a preseason win over the Maui Interscholastic League opponent, and Liftee’s prognostication would indeed be spot-on.
The Dragons picked apart an overmatched the undersized Molokai squad to the tune of a 54-21 victory in the semifinal round of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II basketball tournament at Kaimuki High School.
The rust that showed in Thursday night’s win over Kalani—during which Honokaa committed 30 turnovers—dissipated quickly as the Dragons used runs of 9-0, 15-0 and 6-0 to build, maintain and extend an eventual 32-10 halftime advantage that would not be threatened.
With the win, the Dragons (13-2) advance to tonight’s championship game at the Neal Blaisdell Center at 7 p.m for an all-Big Island Interscholastic Federation final. Kamehameha-Hawaii beat Hawaii Baptist 55-44 in the other semifinal. The Dragons beat the Warriors 54-32 last Saturday to win the BIIF title, ending Kamehameha’s six-year reign atop the league.
Senior guard Shemika Frazier came off the bench to score a game-high 15, including 11 first-half points, and racked up five steals, while junior guard Shayla Ignacio chipped in 13 points. Honokaa coach Daphne Honma likened Frazier’s reserve effort to that of former Oklahoma City guard James Harden, who began his career as superb sixth man for the Thunder, and thrived in an off-the-bench role.
“If you’re a senior, you’re a leader,” Honma said. “She’s huge, and has been huge for us all season long. At the beginning, she didn’t understand why she was coming off the bench. When Harden was playing with OKC, (he provided) lots of energy. For us, a sixth man off the bench is going to boost our level of play. She accepted that role, understood it and has thrived.”
The top-seeded Dragons committed just 13 turnovers and posted 13 assists, converted 22 of 47 attempts from the field (47 percent), made all six free-throw attempts, holding Molokai to just 11 second-half points. Honokaa also forced 25 turnovers and limited the Farmers to seven field goals on 21 attempts.
Shereena Bird contributed eight points for the Dragons and Liftee added six.
Honokaa is pursuing the program’s first state title, which is currently held by two-time defending champion Kamehameha-Hawaii.
Fourth-seeded Molokai (12-2) received five points apiece from Hepuakea Falealii and Ilana Meyer, while Lehiwa Pedro corralled a game-high eight rebounds.
“We tried to prep our kids as best we could, and make our adjustments along the way,” said Honma of the state final. “We can’t play just one style of basketball; we need to make adjustments depending on who we play, and adjust our game plan accordingly.”