Konawaena guard Chanelle Molina was a dominant force, both outstanding and valuable for her basketball team, leading the league in pretty much everything, not only stats but also intangibles such as hard work and motivational fire.
After a fabulous Big Island Interscholastic Federation debut last year, there was no sophomore slump for the 5-foot-6 Molina, who averaged 23 points per game on 65 percent shooting and expanded her all-around skills.
She was a floor general, igniting the offense with a 5.4 assist-per-game average. Her athleticism also helped on defense, not only on the glass but with on-ball matchups, as her 8.5 rebounds and 4.4 steals averages attest.
Molina was voted BIIF Player of the Year in Division I by the league’s coaches, earning her first top honor and landing on the first team for the second time.
Joining her on the first team is fellow sophomore teammate Ihi Victor, who was on the second team last year. Hilo senior forward Aliyah Pana, sophomore guard Alexis Pana and sophomore defensive sparkplug Sharlei Graham-Bernisto round out the first team.
According to BIIF rules, if there are seven or more schools in Division I and II then an All-BIIF first and second team will be recognized. Any player receiving at least one vote is named honorable mention.
All of the Wildcat starters received recognition. Molina’s sister, freshman guard Celena Molina, junior forward Jasmine Perea, and senior guard Zoe Acdal got honorable mention.
“It’s an honor,” Chanelle Molina said. “At practice, I work hard and try to be a good leader. I’m glad it all paid off. My teammates deserve that recognition. They work just as hard as me.
“No one expected us to get this far. They helped and contributed to the team and did a good job. When I found out three of them were honorable mention, at first I saw them smile. It’s motivation to work harder for all the returnees.”
There’s no rest for Molina, who will be joining Team Aloha, a traveling club team with a roster of the state’s top underclassmen.
“I’ve been training and staying in shape for Team Aloha. Last year, we traveled to Arizona,” she said. “We’re going to an elite tourney with a lot of college scouts over there. It’ll be a good opportunity like last year. I’ve been doing upper and lower body cardio. I’ve been working on my hops for volleyball, a lot of vertical jumps.”
Molina continues Kona’s string of top player honors, running from Lia Galdeira in 2009, Dawnyelle Awa in 2010-11, Galdeira in 2012, and Courtney Kaupu last year.
No surprise, those players have been the heart beat of the Wildcats’ perfect streak in league play. Over the last six undefeated BIIF championship seasons, coach Bobbie Awa’s program is 67-0.
Molina provides similar horsepower for Kona’s volleyball team, which finished as the BIIF Division II runner-up the last two seasons. She landed on the first team as a sophomore and second team as a freshman.
She had a highlight-reel performance at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II state championships in November on Oahu, leading Kona over rival Hawaii Prep for her school’s first title.
Molina had a double-double with 28 kills on a .217 hitting clip and scrambled for 20 digs. Her sister Celena added seven kills and racked up a match-high 29 digs. Both were named to the state’s All-Tournament team; the older Molina was voted the Most Outstanding Player.
One of her favorite hobbies is shining the spotlight on others, especially her sisters. She’s running the campaign to get her sister Celena voted the BIIF player of the year for volleyball next season. Celena, a setter, made the second team at right-side hitter.
“Celena is better than me at that sport,” Molina said. “She’s the better player and I hope she gets that award next year. She went to a showcase on Oahu for volleyball in January, and did really good.
“I have a really good feeling about states next year. My sister Cherilyn will be a freshman libero next year. She’s in eighth grade and she’s really good in basketball. She’s like me, quick and fast, a really good ball-hander and can shoot. She’s a smaller version of me at 5 feet 3.”
Her parents, Allan and Rose Molina, have four children: Chanelle, Celena, Cherilyn and 8-year-old Coby, the youngest. Allan Molina works for Hilton Waikoloa while Rose is employed at Sheraton Kona.
Rose honored her best friends from Waiakea High by giving her three daughters their first names. The Molina sisters’ athleticism is more of a mystery.
“I asked my parents that same question, ‘Where does the athleticism come from?’ My mom played sports at Waiakea,” Molina said. “But she didn’t play all that much. My dad played basketball.
“I’ve been playing with Aunty Bobbie since I was 10 years old. Everything I know from basketball I learned from Aunty Bobbie and Stingrays club style. She’s always telling me to play smarter, work hard but play smarter.”
The only thing missing from Molina’s portfolio is a Division I state basketball title. All of the Wildcat greats — Nancy Hoist, Jessica Hanato, Hina Kimitete in 2004, Jazmin Awa-Williams, Mana Hopkins in 2007, Dawnyelle Awa and Galdeira in 2009, ‘11, ‘12 — brought home one to the Ellison Onizuka Gym trophy case.
Next season, the Wildcats will be guard-heavy, featuring quickness and ball-handling — the best way to counter pressing defensive teams like Mililani, which pulled out a 54-51 upset in the state quarterfinals at Kealakehe High.
Molina torched the Trojans for 27 points on 10 of 19 shooting and picked their pockets for five steals. But the painful pebble in Kona’s shoe was 16 turnovers; Mililani had just 11 giveaways.
Cherilyn Molina will help in that ball-security department and so will her best friend Mikayla Tablit, an eighth grader from Honokaa. The two youngsters are also on Awa’s Stingrays club team, and will bring much-needed youth and depth.
“I think we’ll do really well, with Cherilyn and Mikayla,” Molina said. “Both are small and quick ball-handlers and good shooters. Mikayla is a true point guard. Next year, we’ll have a lot of guards. That’s a plus for us, but it’s size that will kill us.”
Then the first-time player of the year talked about motivation. Molina mentioned Kona’s 45-39 loss to Kamehameha-Kapalama for the state championship in her freshman year as permanent bulletin-board material.
“Every time I fail, I get back up and try harder again,” she said. “I’ve failed a lot, in a lot of games, especially my freshman year in the state championship. That hit me really hard. My parents looked me in the eye and said, ‘Keep working hard.’
“I practice hard and work hard. If you do that every day at practice, good things will happen in the game.”
Chanelle Molina, Konawaena, 10, Guard
Aliyah Pana, Hilo, 12, Forward
Alexis Pana, Hilo, 10, Guard
Sharlei Graham-Bernisto, Hilo, 10, Guard
Ihi Victor, Konawaena, 10, F/G
Player of the Year
Chanelle Molina, Konawaena
Coach of the Year
Bobbie Awa, Konawaena
Hilo: Shalyn Guthier, 10, Forward; Kaily Harris, 12, Guard
Konawaena: Celena Molina, 9, Guard; Jasmine Perea, 11, Forward; Zoe Acdal, 12, Guard
Keaau: Taylor Pocock, 12, Guard; Birolena Vaoga, 12, Guard; Aina Padasdao, 10, Guard
Kealakehe: Ashlyn Cabatbat, 10, Guard; Angelina DeSagun, 10, Forward
Waiakea: Shaila Apele, 12, Center; Kaydee Rapozo, 12 Guard