BIIF D-I girls basketball championship: Konawaena surges past Waiakea to extend indomitable dynasty

  • Konawaena's Cherilyn Molina drawns a hard foul during last night's BIIF Championship DI game against Waiakea. Photo: Tim Wright
  • TIM WRIGHT/Tribune-Herald
    Konawaena's Cherilyn Molina looks for a shot in the lane Thursday night against Waiakea in the BIIF D-I girls basketball championship game.

Behind its usual artistry on the basketball court, the Konawaena dynasty has stretched to a well-rounded number.

The Wildcats had an explosive third quarter and toppled Waiakea 48-29 for the BIIF Division I championship on Thursday night at Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium, where the energy was in the air all game long.

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It’s the 10th straight title for the Wildcats (12-0), who also ran their historic league record to 116-0.

The runner-up Warriors (8-3) will host Campbell in an elimination first-round HHSAA tournament game at 4 p.m. Monday at their gym.

Konawaena, the three-time defending state champion, draws a first-round bye and plays in the quarterfinals on Thursday on Oahu. The Wildcats drew the No. 2 seed. Maryknoll, the four-time ILH champ, got the No. 1 seed.

Cherilyn Molina scored 15 points, including 7 of 12 free throws, Caiyle Kaupu had 15 points on 5 of 10 shooting, and Mikayla Tablit added eight points for the Wildcats, who threw fastballs and change-ups with tempo, running on fast-breaks and showing patience in half-court sets.

The Wildcats were efficient with their ball-distribution. As usual, they had more assists than turnovers, 13-9. Molina was a ball-distribution master with nine assists and zero turnovers.

Konawaena’s extra-pass, ball-sharing led to a ton of open looks and 39 shooting percent (15 of 39) from the floor, including 6 of 21 from long range. In the second half, the Wildcats shot 65 percent (11 of 17) from the floor.

Kelsie Imai scored 11 points but struggled with 3 of 12 shooting while Jazelle Dorser scored nine points on 3 of 4 shooting for the Warriors, who converted 30 percent (9 of 30) from the floor, including 2 of 6 from long range.

Waiakea led 17-16 at halftime after shaky shooting from both teams. The Warriors hit 35 percent (6 of 17) from the field while the Wildcats clanked shots at 18 percent (4 of 22), including 2 of 12 from long distance.

“We’ve worked hard every practice and gave it our all,” Molina said. “We were prepared for this after Waiakea played us close in the first game (38-35 Konawaena win).”

The Warriors put their best defender, sophomore Zaelynn Lui-Cabinatan, on Molina. The Wildcats rotated Molina, Tablit, and Tanniya Uchida on Imai, who scored five points in the first half on 1 of 5 shooting.

The play of the first quarter was when Lui-Cabinatan, who has great anticipation and quickness, stripped a Wildcat and scored on a layup right before the buzzer for an 11-8 lead.

In the second quarter, the Wildcats slowed the pace down and outscored the Warriors, 8-6. That was a slight edge but a huge momentum shift.

At halftime, Konawaena came out as a different team, actually an old version of itself: the ball-sharing, mentally tough one that has been battle-tested too many times to count.

In the third quarter, the Wildcats outscored the Warriors, 15-1. They hit 6 of 9 shots and had six assists to just two turnovers. Kaupu, who kept getting fed in the low post, scored nine points on 4 of 4 shooting.

Waiakea was 0 of 7 on field goals in the third period and scored its only point when Dorser sank 1 of 2 free throws with 3.2 seconds left to trail 31-18 heading into the final eight minutes.

The Wildcats extended their lead when their 3-point shooting got into a groove. Molina, Kawena Kaohimaunu, and Tablit bombed away with long balls to stretch the cushion to 40-23 with 5:10 to go.

When Waiakea pressured, the ball-movement started flowing until a shooter had a good look. If someone else had a better shot, the extra pass was made, and the value of high-percentage shot selection was highlighted.

On one beautiful play in the fourth quarter, Kaohimaunu drove to the hoop and dished to Molina, who fed Kaupu for an open, easy bucket. It was ball-sharing at its best.

“Our coaches told us to execute and not rush shots at halftime,” Molina said. “We wanted to get good, easy looks. If the 3 was open, then take it. If not, feed the players in the post.”

Sounds simple enough. And that’s how the Wildcats have rolled for a decade.

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Waiakea 11 6 1 11 — 29

Konawaena 8 8 15 17 — 48