Pahoa senior Alyssa Padilla enjoys watching her friend Hilo senior point guard Mandi Kawaha on the basketball court, where ball-handling is turned into an art form.
Padilla has been a regular participant in the BIIF playoffs but suffered quick exits. And this season, the Daggers (1-9) tied for last with Ka‘u in the Division II standings and didn’t qualify.
Pahoa got hit by a double whammy. Honokaa dropped down to Division II, and Hawaii Prep improved from 0-10 last year to 3-7 for the No. 4 seed.
As a lava flow transfer student at Keaau in her freshman season, Konawaena walloped the Cougars 85-5 in the BIIF semifinals.
Last season in the BIIF semis, Kamehameha eliminated Pahoa 55-11, and Kohala ousted the Daggers 32-25 in 2016.
In a lot of ways, Padilla is what’s great about the world of BIIF sports. She makes the best of her opportunity and enjoys every second of it.
She was an All-BIIF honorable mention last season, has a 3.5 GPA, and is in the National Honor Society. Padilla will attend UNLV and major in Kinesiology.
“I’ve had a lot of success throughout my BIIF career,” she said. “It may not be with wins, but I got a lot smarter and more confident than during my P&R days. Sometimes, it’s not always about winning but improving as an individually and as a team.
“My goal at Pahoa was to take the team to BIIFs. I also wanted to help my teammates improve and to get more girls to come out and play.”
The BIIF playoffs start Wednesday, and the last game will be the best one. That’s between crosstown rivals No. 2 seed Hilo (9-1) and No. 3 Waiakea (8-2) for a spot in the HHSAA Division I tournament.
If No. 4 Keaau (4-6) pulls off the biggest upset in league history against No. 1 Konawaena (10-0), then the second state berth would accompany the BIIF title.
The Wildcats have captured the last nine league crowns and continue to pad their historic win streak, standing at 114-0.
In Division II, No. 1 seed Honokaa (7-3) plays No. 4 HPA to kick things off at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium.
The Dragons defeated Ka Makani 47-28 during the regular season.
It’s a last call for the heart and soul of No. 2 Kamehameha (6-4) against No. 3 Kohala (5-5) with the final home appearances for senior starters Saydee Aganus, Jordyn Mantz, Taylor Sullivan, and McKenzie Kalawaia.
The Warriors went on the road and beat the Cowgirls 45-38 during the regular season.
In the postseason, the most valuable skill-set is ball-handling because an empty possession (turnovers or bad shots) is always the worst enemy in close games.
This season, Kawaha and her sister, junior guard Mindy Kawaha, take turns running the point. They simply execute the offense and give fellow Viking teammates good looks.
And when it comes down to crunch time, the ball will be in Mandi Kawaha’s hands. She’ll dribble, start a good flow and make something happen.
“Mandi has got some smooth handles. She makes everything look so easy to do, in both style and speed,” Padilla said. “Everything she does is quick.
“I watch the BIIF playoffs every year. I always think what it would be like to play in front of a crazy crowd. I would have loved the experience, but although I didn’t I’m fine with that, too.”