HONOLULU — As the saying goes, it’s hard to beat a good team twice.
Behind a pair of double-doubles from senior standout Mikayla Tablit and stellar sophomore Caylie Kaupu, Konawaena led nearly wire-to-wire in a 50-45 win over Maui rival Lahainaluna in the HHSAA Division I semifinals on Friday night at the Neal Blaisdell Center.
Tablit netted 14 points to go with 10 rebounds while Kaupu scored 12 and grabbed 10 boards for the three-time defending state champions. Cherilyn Molina added 10 for the ‘Cats.
Lahainaluna guard Braeanna Estabillo-Donato notched a game-high 15 points in the losing effort, while Susitina Namoa had 14.
The victory avenges a loss earlier this season against the Lunas, in which the Wildcats fell 44-42 in double overtime after a furious second-half comeback.
This time it was Lahainaluna staging a second-half surge, erasing an 11-point third quarter deficit, but the Wildcats were able to hang on for the win with some solid free-throw shooting down the stretch.
The Lunas and Wildcats have been rivals for years, frequently facing off in the preseason, a result of the bond built between Konawaena head coach Bobbie Awa and Luna head coach Todd Rickard.
“We respect them, they respect us,” Kaupu said on the OC16 broadcast postgame. “That’s how it has always been.”
The 10-time defending BIIF champion Wildcats head back to the state title game for the fourth consecutive year and have been on the championship stage all but one time in the last decade.
For a third year in a row, the Wildcats will see ILH champion and the tournament’s top seed Maryknoll in the final. The Spartans beat BIIF runner-up Waiakea handily in the second semifinal 75-40. The championship will be televised on OC16, with the tip scheduled for 7 p.m.
Maryknoll defeated the Wildcats by a healthy margin in a preseason matchup, 56-37. It’s the only other blemish on Konawaena’s otherwise terrific 25-2 resume.
But if the Wildcats proved anything against the Lunas, it is that they are far from the team they were when the season started.
“We play more as a team now,” Kaupu said. “It’s not ‘I’ basketball anymore. No one is thinking about themselves.”
Kaupu erupted on to the scene last year as a freshman and has continued to be an impact player for Konawaena. However, she has been plagued by foul trouble in some of the Wildcats’ more important games this season, including the first matchup with the Lunas.
She finished with four fouls — one away from the limit — but being able to stay in for most of the game gave the Wildcats a decisive edge down low. Konawaena outscored the Lunas in the paint 28-18 and had more offensive rebounds (18) than defensive (17).
If there was another edge for Konawaena, it came at the charity stripe. As a team, the Wildcats were 11-of-15, compared to the Lunas, who converted on only 1-of-5 free throws, all coming off the hands of junior forward Susitina Namoa.
The Wildcats emptied the bench during the team’s lopsided quarterfinal win over Moanalua, with every player on the roster notching a bucket. Against the Lunas, it was a different story. The starting five for Konawaena played almost the full game. Moo Moo Fautanu was the only Wildcat off the bench, seeing three minutes in relief of Kaupu.
But at this point in the year, the Wildcats starting five are used to running for a full 32 minutes, and with one game left, they wouldn’t want it any other way.
Lahainaluna 8 9 14 14 — 45
Konawaena 10 13 12 15 — 50
: Kamalu Kamakawiwo’ole, a 5-foot-10 junior forward, had a monster game with 19 points on 8 of 12 shooting and seven rebounds.
Isabella Cravens added 15 points, and Moe Notoa had 12 points for the ILH champion Spartans (14-0), who shot 44 percent (26 of 59) from the floor.
Zaelynnn Lui-Cabinatan scored 11 points, Kayla Iwata had nine off the bench, and Jazelle “Jazzie” Dorser added seven points for the Warriors (10-4), who played Lahainaluna in the third-place game.
The Warriors shot just 23 percent (10 of 44) from the floor and struggled with their ball-handling with 25 turnovers.
Waiakea 3 6 20 11 — 40
Maryknoll 11 20 23 21 — 75
Kamehameha 51, Roosevelt 25: Saydee Aganus had a well-rounded game that highlighted her skill-set as a floor leader with 14 points on 6 of 11 shooting, four rebounds, three steals, and seven assists to just one turnover.
The three-time BIIF champion Warriors (10-4) advance to the championship for the third year in a row. The 5 p.m. game will be televised live on Spectrum OC16, channel 12.
Most coaches want their ball-handers to have an assist to turnover ratio of 3 to 1. No one else on the floor matched the Warrior senior’s ball-distribution with an ability to dribble-penetrate, spot open teammates and dish on the fly.
The other impressive stat was a big, fat 0. That’s how many points the Rough Riders scored in the fourth quarter. The OIA champions (9-5) shot 20 percent (9 of 45) on field goals, including a wobbly 2 of 20 from 3-point land.
Jordyn Mantz scored 16 points on 6 of 11 shooting and added seven rebounds, and Dominique Pacheco scored six points and grabbed seven boards for Kamehameha, which shot 46 percent (21 of 46) from the floor, including 5 of 14 from long range.
The Warriors held a sizable 35-13 cushion at halftime.
Roosevelt 3 10 12 0 — 25
Kamehameha 17 18 9 7 — 51
St. Francis 28, Honokaa 22: A slow start was harmful for the Dragons, who were outscored 8-2 in the first quarter.
Misionai Ribeiro scored 11 points on 5 of 6 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds to lead the Saints (17-0).
Kayla Branco scored seven points on 2 of 7 shooting while Kui’lei Aikau added 6 points on 3 of 11 shooting for the Dragons (9-5).
Honokaa plays Roosevelt for third-place on Saturday.
Honokaa 2 4 5 11 — 22
St. Francis 8 4 9 8 — 28