By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
In the rubble of 26 turnovers, Honokaa coach Daphne Honma found a silver lining in her team’s loss to one of the league’s heavyweights in Hilo.
The Vikings capitalized on giveaways and beat the Dragons 54-42 in a Big Island Interscholastic Federation girls basketball game on Monday night at Kawananakoa Gym that highlighted the importance of ball-handling.
“That was the tell of the game. We knew we had to limit our turnovers,” Honma said. “That was our one goal. To cut down on our turnovers. Hilo’s good enough to make you pay when you turn over the ball. And that’s exactly what they did.”
Sharlei Graham-Bernisto scored 14 points, and Alexis Pana and Shalyn Guthier had 12 each for the Vikings (8-1), who counter-punched every time Honokaa built a small piece of momentum.
Chancis Fernandez and Shemika Frazier scored 10 points each, Jasmine Castro nine and Eliyah Fernandez added seven points and 11 rebounds for the Dragons (8-2), whose only other loss was to Konawaena, another Division I foe, 54-41.
The Dragons had 13 turnovers in each half, but kept their composure, shared the ball and made enough shots to trail just 28-25 at halftime.
Then the second half rolled around and Honokaa had 13 turnovers, again. But it seemed like each one turned into a layup in transition for the Vikings, who were hot from the field, 45 percent (22 of 49), but cold from the free-throw line, 6 of 21.
Most of Honokaa’s turnovers were because of no-look passing (not the good kind) that ended up in enemy hands when ball-handlers were pressured. Instead of a ball fake, the Dragons telegraphed passes and the Vikings collected a surplus of interceptions.
The Vikings weren’t perfect with their ball-security either. They had 15 giveaways but often raced back in transition defense. It didn’t help matters that sophomore point guard Alexis Pana collided with a Dragon in the first quarter, walked off with a limp and didn’t return until late in the third period.
That’s when Cailey Cabalis scored two straight layups, including a pretty reverse on the first one, off turnovers to give Hilo a 38-32 lead heading into the final eight minutes.
In the fourth quarter, the Vikings went on an 11-2 scoring spree to grab a 51-38 cushion with 2:20 remaining. Right before that run, Frazier drilled a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 40-36 with 6:02 left. The Dragons were still in the ballgame.
Then their momentum got ushered out of the gym. Alexis Pana immediately raced down the court, spotted up, and let loose for a 3-pointer — nothing but net, and before the Dragons could blink they were down by 13 points.
Honokaa converted 37 percent (15 of 41) on field goals and made more free throws: 9 of 15. But that mattered little with all those harmful turnovers.
“Against the better teams, we don’t know how to finish,” Honma said. “We don’t know how to keep it together. But that’s game experience and nothing beats game experience. You can’t duplicate that sense of urgency and pressure in practice.”
Then Honma’s frustration turned into big-picture perspective. Also, she can take comfort that her Dragons beat Kamehameha, the six-time defending BIIF champion, 42-35 at Honokaa Armory.
“But the good thing is the more we play these types of games the better we’ll get,” she said.
Honokaa 14 11 7 10 — 42
Hilo 20 8 10 16 — 54
Konawaena 61, Keaau 22: Chanelle Molina helped the Wildcats clinch the No. 1 seed in the BIIF Division I playoffs with 19 points on Senior Night in Kealakekua.
Konawaena also got balanced scoring from Ihi Victor (16 points), Jasmine Perea (14) and Celena Molina to improve to 10-0. The five-time defending league champion Wildcats will match up again with the Cougars (4-6) in the BIIF semifinals Jan. 31 at Keaau High School.
Taylor Pocock scored 14 points for Keaau.
Keaau 2 11 5 4 —22
Konawaena 8 17 21 15—61
Hawaii Prep 47, Laupahoehoe 13: Anna Juan scored 12 points in Waimea and Erina Baudat added 11 as Ka Makani wrapped up the final berth in the BIIF Division II playoffs.
HPA (5-5), which has won two straight, will be seeded fourth at the BIIF semifinals Jan. 31 at Keaau High School.
Makamae Anderson led the Seasiders (0-10) with eight points.
Laupahoehoe 0 8 2 3 — 13
Hawaii Prep 12 18 13 4—47
Kamehameha 79, Kohala 59: Casey Poe poured in a game-high 29 points in Kapaau as the Warriors handed the Cowgirls their second straight loss.
Makamae Gabriel added 21 points for Kamehameha (7-3), which likely will face Kohala (6-3) again in the BIIF Division II semifinals.
Brittany Shimono led the Cowgirls with 15 and Hauoli Sproat-Lancaster had 10.
In JV, Kohala won 46-40.
Waiakea 65, Ka’u 45: Kryssie Okinaka led three scorers in double figures with 18 points as the Warriors prevailed in Pahala.
Shaila Apele chipped in with 16 points and Kaydee Rapozo added 14 for Waiakea (6-4), which is assured of the third seed in the BIIF Division I playoffs.
Denisha Navarro led the Trojans (1-9) with 13 points.
Waiakea won the JV game, 41-20.
Ka’u 11 10 10 14 —45
Waiakea 13 19 16 17—65
Pahoa 50, Kealakehe 35: Erleen Oguma posted 14 points and Randi Berinobis and Vanessa Casto contributed 11 and 10, respectively, as the Daggers (3-7) pulled away in the fourth quarter to win at home.
Ivana Galvez led the Waveriders (1-9) with eight points.
Both teams have been eliminated from playoff consideration.
Kealakehe won the JV game 47-27.
Kealakehe 4 12 12 7—35
Pahoa 10 16 3 21—50