It almost wouldn’t have made sense if the crowning moment of Kamehameha’s four-year journey came easy.
So finding itself suddenly trailing for the first time late in the third quarter during a timeout Saturday night, Saydee Aganus simply looked at Jordyn Mantz, McKenzie Kalawaia and Taylor-James Sullivan and said, “Let’s do this.”
This time, they did – the powerhouse program of Hawaii High Division II girls basketball is back on top.
Aganus zipped around Blaisdell Center in Honolulu for 18 points with 11 rebounds as the Warriors beat Saint Francis 41-32 to claim the school’s fifth state championship, and this one was delivered by a senior core four that finally gained the title it cherished.
“It means the world,” Aganus said in a postgame interview on OC16. “Our team worked so hard to get here the past three years, so this mean’s a lot.”
Outclassed in the past two state championship games, the BIIF champion Warriors (11-4) were the clear class of this field, winning their three games by an average margin of more than 22 points, giving Kamehameha its first title since 2013.
The Warriors’ misses in 2016 and ‘17 not withstanding, the Big Island has produced five of the past seven state champions.
“I can’t say enough about the four seniors,” coach Weston Willard said. “This is the culmination of four years of hard work. It was Saydee today, but Jordyn was big (with 16 points in the semifinals against Roosevelt) and it was McKenzie the other night.”
“Taking four years to get here, that just makes it all the sweeter,” he said.
It wasn’t a senior show entirely.
As it has all season, the core four got a big helping hand from sophomore guard Dominique Pacheco, who loomed large at 5 feet, 2 inches, grabbing eight rebounds to go along with six points. Kalawaia posted eight points and seven rebounds.
“This took so much effort and hard work,” Aganus said. “Taylor is big on the boards, Jordyn hitting her 3s, (Dominique) is always big up top, Kenzie working hard out there, and the bench always believes in us.”
Nani Santos scored 16 points for Saint Francis, which was playing in its first state title game since 2005.
Kamehameha has limited depth – only the five starters scored –so it wasn’t surprising to Willard that his team went through is customary third-quarter lull, nor was he surprised the top-seeded Saints (17-1), the ILH champion, had the mettle to open the second half with a 12-3 run to take 25-23 lead with 1:34 remaining in the third quarter.
“Saint Francis is a great team,” Willard said.
The Warriors response wasn’t a surprise either.
“The were cool, calm and collected,” he said.
Mantz dropped a 3-pointer to give the Warriors the lead for good, Kalawaia’s jumper pushed the advantage to three, and the Warriors pulled away by scoring 11 of their 13 points in the fourth quarter on free throws, their only basket being Aganus’ layup.
Kamehameha evened its title game record t0 5-6.
Aganus added state basketball gold to the hurdling gold she won in track and field in 2017. It’s fair to call her a track athlete first, and a basketball player second, but Willard puts it differently.
“She’s a competitor first,” he said.
They all are.
“As a group, the seniors bought into each other,” he said. “Character pays off.”