By. J.R. DeGROOTE
Stephens Media Hawaii
KAILUA-KONA — Behind 22 points from Mikaela Limper, the Mililani Trojans advanced to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association semifinals with 54-51 upset win over the Konawaena Wildcats on Saturday night at Kealakehe High School.
Konawaena led for the majority of the game, with the margin even growing to double-digits. However, the Trojans stuck to a game plan that consisted equally of production from behind the 3-point line and tossing the ball down to the post to escape Kona with a win.
“Our girls persevered. We got in a hole but were able to crawl out,” Mililani head coach Patrick Basilio said. “They stuck to the plan, stayed the course and worked our offense. Everyone really stepped up when we needed it. The ball bounced our way at the end.”
Limper was only 3-of-9 from beyond the arc and did not find her stroke until the second half.
“I think she is finding more confidence in her shot again, and her being hot is opening up space for the bigs down low,” Basilio said. “For the first half of the season the outside game was working really well, but lately we had lost it little bit. We were hoping to get it back in the state championship.”
Konawaena has been the dominant girls basketball program in Hawaii for the last decade. Since 2004, the Wildcats have won five state titles in girls basketball, and have made it to the championship game eight times.
“We needed to take of business tonight and we didn’t,” Konawaena head coach Bobbie Awa said. “They had a big girl down low that we couldn’t stop and that opened it up for their shooters. We knew they had a good shooter, but could not get out to guard her because we were so concerned about the post.”
Chanelle Molina scored 27 points for Konawaena (13-1). The sophomore star was keyed on by the Trojans’ defense, and also was forced to play the entire second half with four fouls. Her fourth foul came with less than a second remaining in the second quarter.
“Obviously you have to shut down Chanelle when you play Konawaena. Well, you have to try to shut her down. You can really only slow her down,” Basilio said. “We were fortunate she got into foul trouble and had to sit for a while. That is the best defense you can play against her.”
The only other Wildcat in double figures was Mercedes “Ihi” Victor, who contributed 11 points and hit all three of her 3-point attempts.
“They did a good job changing up their defense on us the last few possessions,” Awa said. “We also need more threats on the court. It hurt us when Chanelle had to sit.”
It took a while for the Trojans to get going, likely due to fatigue from a busy weekend under the HHSAA’s new regional format.
The Trojans (14-1) of the Oahu Interscholastic Association were coming off a 54-39 victory against Radford on Friday on Oahu. The Wildcats had an entire week to rest and prepare since winning the BIIF championship against Hilo on Feb. 1
“You could see the sluggish pace from us in the first half. Maybe it was jet lag from Oahu to the Big Island,” Basillo said. “It’s been crazy. I really appreciate the regional format, but I think we need at least a day buffer to set it off. Having to settle the girls in before the game was huge.”
The Trojans took their first lead of the second half early in the fourth quarter on free throws from senior center Sarah Liva, who finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
The anxious Kona crowd began to grow as the seconds ticked off the clock.
With a minute left, Jamie Yuki converted on a tough layup to increase the Trojans’ lead to four.
Down by four with 27 seconds remaining, the Wildcats needed a big play, and they got one when Victor got an open look and drained a 3-pointer to bring the Wildcats within one.
After a steal, the setup was fit for a movie. With nine seconds remaining, the entire gym knew who the ball was going to, and the Wildcats found a way to get the ball in Molina’s hands.
Molina sized up her defender, but lost her dribble and fell to the ground trying to recover the loose ball.
The Wildcats fouled with 0.8 seconds left, but the game was no longer the primary focus. In chaos of the final play, Molina knocked her head on the ground, so hard it could be heard through the crowd noise. She laid motionless on the Kealakehe gymnasium floor as the once-raucous crowd of nearly 500 fell to silence.
Molina made it off the court under her own power, but was later taken to the hospital in an ambulance, fit with a neck brace.
Mililani advances to play Punahou on Friday at McKinley High School. The Buffanblu defeated King Kekaulike 62-39 on Saturday.
Mililani 18 5 19 12 — 54
Konawaena 17 13 14 7 —51