BIIF D-II girls basketball championship: Kamehameha halfway home after securing threepeat

  • Honokaa's Kavia Branco drives in for a shot during last night's DII game against Kamehameha. Photo: Tim Wright
  • Honokaa's Bella Fernandez looks for a shot during last night's DII game against Kamehameha. Photo: Tim Wright
  • Kamhameha's Saydee Aganus looks for an shot during last night's DII game against Honokaa. Photo: Tim Wright
  • Kamhameha's Taylor-James Sullivan goes up for a shot Thursday night during the Warriors' 32-29 victory during the BIIF D-II girls basketball championship game.

Kamehameha’s senior Core Four completed one part of the mission.

Saydee Aganus scored a game-high 12 points to spark the Warriors over Honokaa 32-29 for their third straight BIIF Division II championship on Thursday at Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium.

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It was a fitting home finale for Aganus and fellow senior starters McKenzie Kalawaia, Taylor Sullivan, and Jordyn Mantz. Hera Salmeron is the last senior.

They’re also a part of two HHSAA Division II runner-up finishes to Mid-Pacific last year and to Hawaii Baptist in 2016. That’s the unfinished business part.

“It feels good, and I’m excited for states,” Aganus said. “We came out with more heart, played as a team, and our coaches helped us bounce back (from a 15-13 halftime deficit).”

Kamehameha (8-4) draws a first-round bye to the state tournament, which starts Wednesday on Oahu. The Warriors play in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

Honokaa (8-4) plays in the first round on Wednesday. The Dragons played on the Division I level the last two years. They won BIIF and state titles in 2015 and ’16.

Aganus reminded everyone why she’s the two-time BIIF Division II player of the year with a well-rounded performance. She shot 5 of 12 from the field, grabbed three rebounds, had two assists, two blocks, and one steal.

Sophomore guard Dominique Pacheco added nine points on 3 of 5 shooting while Kalawaia (six points), Mantz and Salmeron (two points each), and Sullivan (one point) contributed for the Warriors, who shot 36 percent (12 of 33) from the field.

They buried just 1 of 6 from 3-point range and made just 7 of 13 free throws. But more importantly, Kamehameha played with veteran poise and committed just nine turnovers. That low giveaway total was a key, especially in the third quarter.

Bella Fernandez scored 11 points on 5 of 8 shooting, and Kayla Branco added 10 points on 2 of 4 shooting for the Dragons, who shot a smoking 50 percent (10 of 20) from the floor, including just 2 of 6 from long distance.

Like Kamehameha, Honokaa didn’t fully capitalize on free points. The Dragons went just 7 of 15 from the line.

Honokaa led 15-13 in a low-scoring first half that featured interesting defensive matchups.

The Dragons used Branco to guard Mantz, who at 5 feet 7 has several inches over her, but went scoreless in the first half. The Warriors couldn’t take advantage of the mismatch as Mantz went 0 for 2 from the field.

Kalawaia guarded Fernandez, who had just one bucket, an off-the-dribble layup in the first period. Kalawaia got herself in foul trouble with three before halftime.

Fernandez defended the versatile Aganus, who had to work hard for her six points on 2 of 6 shooting. Aganus scored on a transition jump shot, a 3-pointer and hit 1 of 2 free throws.

Honokaa’s Aulani Cordero knocked down a 3-ball right before the buzzer in the first quarter. Pacheco returned the favor with a layup at the buzzer in the second period.

The first half scoring standout was Branco, who put up 10 points on 2 of 3 shooting, draining a 3-pointer and sinking 5 of 6 free throws.

In the third quarter, the Warriors had a helpful 7-0 scoring edge off eight Honokaa turnovers. Neither team scored off giveaways in the first half. The Dragons finished with a painful 19 turnovers.

Kamehameha’s transition game was on fire with five layups. Aganus had a pair of layups and a close-range jump shot for six points in the quarter.

Honokaa put a perimeter player, guard Sharissa Bird, on Aganus, and they defended each other. Bird’s speed was needed against Aganus’ quickness. But the Warriors have other fast players, too.

Pacheco, the sophomore point guard, dropped in a layup off a turnover and was fouled. She sank her free throw for a 28-21 lead with 1:29 left.

In the fourth quarter, Aganus put in a layup for a 32-29 lead with under a minute left. Honokaa turned the ball over with 41.6 seconds remaining.

Then the Warriors missed the front end of two one-and-one free throw attempts. With 10.1 seconds to go, Honokaa missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw.

From there, time eventually ran out for the Honokaa, which couldn’t get a 3-point potential tying shot off.

Kamehameha coach Weston Willard pointed to his team’s big-game experience with those five seniors as a difference.

“We have a lot of respect for Honokaa,” he said. “But we’ve got a lot of experience. We stayed calm, cool, and collected. We hit the reset button at halftime, and our experience came through.”

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Kamehameha 8 5 15 4 — 32

Honokaa 8 7 11 3 — 29