By MATT GERHART
Stephens Media Hawaii
KEAAU — It would be a stretch to say Konawaena was in trouble or the game was in doubt. But aside from sensational sophomore Chanelle Molina, the Wildcats weren’t earning many style points Friday night.
Then up stepped Zoe Acdal, who wouldn’t mind carving out a style all her own. Something along the lines of saving her best for last.
Behind a regular night from Molina (24 points) and a career night from Acdal (15), Konawaena pushed past Keaau 55-23 in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division I girls basketball semifinals for its 67th straight league victory.
“My best game so far,” said Acdal, a senior who’s spent her share of time on the bench watching the Wildcats rack up championships. “I have to step up. Over the years I gained more experience and now that it’s my senior year, I have to give it all I got.”
Konawaena (12-0) will be back at Keaau High at 7:30 p.m. today to play Hilo (11-1) in a battle of the titans as the Wildcats search for their sixth straight BIIF championship. The Vikings beat Waiakea 59-42 in the other semifinal.
“We picked it up,” Molina said. “We knew we had to play hard to show everyone that we still got it this year.”
The Wildcats shot poorly from the field in the first half Friday and even worse from the free-throw line, and the Cougars (4-8) were hanging around and surprisingly trailed only 20-11 when Taylor Pocock made a basket to open the first half.
After Molina made a free throw, Acdal responded with three straight baskets to fuel an 11-0 run. Moments later, Celene Molina made a shot and Chanelle Molina converted on a three-point play as the Wildcats starting looking like themselves again and led by 24 after three quarters.
“It felt good,” Acdal said. “I had better looks tonight and I felt confident in my shot. Teammates were passing the ball.
“Our shots weren’t falling in the beginning, but once we started getting easy layups, we got more confident.”
While Acdal enjoyed a bit of a coming-out party, Chanelle Molina was easily the best player on the floor. On a night when her team’s offense was sluggish at times, the sophomore guard was consistent from start to finish. She hit a 3-pointer to open the contest and added a driving layup in scoring the game’s first seven points, making at least two baskets in each quarter.
“When we can’t push the ball or handle the ball, I would try to get open and take over,” she said. “Especially in the third quarter, I knew we were struggling with our ball-handling, so I just try to get open as much as I can.”
Pocock capped a stellar senior season with 17 points for the Cougars, who were hampered by turnovers.
The Wildcats haven’t lost a BIIF game since the 2008 final. One of their few tests in the past six years came Jan. 4 when they eked out a 48-45 victory against the Vikings.
“I’m ready for tomorrow,” Acdal said.
Keaau 2 7 8 6 —23
Konawaena 10 10 21 14—55
Hilo 59, Waiakea 42: Shalyn Guthier and Sharlei Graham-Bernisto each scored 13 points to help the Vikings earn a trip to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament.
Aliyah Pana and Cailey Cabalis added apiece10 for Hilo, which led 26-21 at the half.
Kryssie Okinaka led the Warriors (7-5) with 13 points. Shaila Apele added 10.