By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
KEAAU — Chancis Fernandez turned into a wide receiver, caught long passes and scored a bunch of layups. When the Honokaa guard wasn’t doing that, she played tough defense that had Kamehameha all out of sorts.
Fernandez scored 19 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, as the Dragons topped the 54-32 in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II girls basketball championship on Saturday night, stopping Kamehameha’s title collection at six straight years.
“It feels good to glad bring it home,” she said. “I wanted to play for my home school, and it makes it extra special to win in my senior year.”
The Dragons (11-2) finished as the BIIF runner-up the last two years to the Warriors and last won the league title in 1997, long before statewide classification.
“They worked hard all season and have come a long way,” Honokaa coach Daphne Honma said. “It was their goal from Day 1. In order to beat a good team like Kamehameha, we had to be good on both ends of the floor with no mental errors.
“We strive for perfection. I know that’s impossible but that’s what we strive for. I have to give a shout-out to my coaching staff for coming up with a great game plan. But all the credit goes to the kids. They did what they needed to do.”
Hunter Liftee had 11 points, Eliyah Fernandez and Shemika Frazier each added six points and Shayla Ignacio had five points for the Dragons, who led 21-12 at halftime.
Casey Poe scored 18 points and Caitlin Poe added five points for the Warriors (9-4), who couldn’t get a scoring spark from anyone else.
“From the beginning, we tried to mix up our defense and in the first quarter we slowed down the tempo,” Kamehameha coach Garrett Arima said. “But then they got in a groove, hit a couple of outside shots and we got into foul trouble.
“They were relentless. They’ve got depth and have a deep bench and utilized it well. In the fourth quarter, we tried to put pressure on them and force turnovers. But they capitalized on our mistakes and it showed tonight. They came out to win it and I told our girls in the locker room that that best team won. Honokaa did everything they needed to do.”
Both teams can turn their attention to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II state tournament, where Kamehameha and Honokaa placed first and second, respectively, last season. The tourney runs from Feb. 5-8 on Oahu. (Only the Division I girls state tournament is part of the regional pilot program.)
Most of Chancis Fernandez’ points in the fourth occurred when the Warriors tried to trap ball-handlers, and the senior guard waited at the other end for easy layups.
“We wanted to move the ball as soon as they trapped,” she said. “I scored most of my points on fast-breaks. When they trapped, I was wide open in the back.
“We wanted to come out with strong D from the beginning. We picked up on gap support, didn’t let them have any open looks and pressured the ball.”
Chancis Fernandez front-guarded Poe and Honokaa depended on its help-side defense to provide support once she got the ball and turned to the basket. The other Dragons played sticky off-ball defense to prevent kickouts.
Liftee and Eliyah Fernandez took turns guarding Kamehameha’s other big-man threat, 5-foot-9 forward Makamae Gabriel, who scored just two points.
“We wanted to make sure Kamehameha had no dribble-penetration. That was our game plan, to not let Casey do that,” Honma said. “In the second half, we played a lot better on defense. Our zone didn’t really work, so we had to play man defense by default. But that’s our bread and butter and what we do best.”
Kamehameha 4 8 6 14 — 32
Honokaa 9 12 9 24 — 54