Take a good look at Cherilyn Molina and remember her well because it will be a very long time or maybe never for BIIF basketball to feature someone with her combination of accomplishments and skill-set again.
The Konawaena senior point guard closes her career as the league’s forever face of perfection with unblemished records at the HHSAA and BIIF Division I levels. (The only losses suffered were in the preseason, and that’s not supposed to count.)
Under her sparkplug ability, Molina piloted the Wildcats to a fourth straight state title and 10th consecutive BIIF championship. Also, the powerhouse program concluded a still-growing league record of 116-0 during its decade-long run.
Molina repeated as the BIIF Division I player of the year in a vote by the league’s coaches, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald and West Hawaii Today, landing on the first team for the fourth time and separating herself from her sisters, Chanelle and Celena Jane, who have two and three state titles, respectively.
In order of votes, the other All-BIIF first team members are Konawaena senior Mikayla Tablit, Waiakea sophomore Kelsie Imai, Hilo senior Mandi Kawaha, Konawaena sophomore Caiyle Kaupu, Waiakea freshman Jazelle “Jazzie” Dorser, and Hilo sophomore Mindy Kawaha.
“I’m very grateful and blessed in getting my second POY award,” Molina said. “It has been my goal at the beginning of the season after my main goals, which were to win BIIFs and states. I know everyone was working just as hard as me to get it.”
Waiakea’s Brandon Kauhi was named the BIIF coach of the year after guiding a team with no seniors to its first state berth since 2012.
Though Konawaena is a model of consistency, this season for the last Molina sibling marked a significant change. The Wildcats were no longer the favorite for the state title. They entered as somewhat of an underdog.
The HHSAA seeding committee ranked the Wildcats as the No. 2 seed. They were the three-time defending state champion. Maryknoll, which placed runner-up the last two years, was ranked No. 1 and seen as a Goliath with size, depth, and a large dish of cold revenge on hand.
So, how does a team much, much shorter across the board take down the mighty Spartans and outbound them, not just once but for the last three years?
Perfection is built by the basics, brick by brick, and Molina and her teammates are worker bees in that aspect of rigorous training.
The Wildcats are masters at doing all the fundamental little things that keep adding up: hitting left-handed layups with the greatest of ease (to ensure easy points), remaining on the right pivot foot (to avoid turnovers and moving their feet on defense (to prevent personal fouls).
The 5-foot-7 Molina put on a ball-sharing, defensive-lockdown clinic in Konawaena’s 47-32 beatdown against Maryknoll for the state championship, which included a lopsided 30-10 scoring margin in the second half.
She scored 22 points on 4 of 9 shooting, including 13 of 18 free throws, produced three assists, two steals, and eight rebounds, more than every player except for 6-1 Maryknoll senior Isabella Cravens, who collected 15 boards.
Maybe more attention-grabbing than her eight boards was Molina’s defensive efficiency: all 32 minutes played and only one personal foul. She also had one block, half of Cravens’ total.
“My rebounding and tough defense come from coach Jess Hanato,” Molina said. “She’s our defensive coach and during practices she demonstrates the right and better way to rebound and always tells me to stay in front, not to reach and just put a lot of pressure on the player with the ball.”
Then there’s the precious intangible that’s a gene in all the Molina sisters: competitive fire.
Chanelle Molina has often said that her youngest sister is the best hoopster of the trio, which will be reunited soon at Washington State. That’s coming from someone who offered the ultimate competitor’s quote as a freshman after a volleyball loss to Kamehameha: “I hate losing more than I enjoy winning.”
In a way, the Wazzu sophomore is right on the money.
“We have that same determination and mindset to achieve what our goal is and to play every game like it’s our last game and to do anything to get that win for the team. The ways we are different is I was able to win states all four years, and she did it only for two years,” Cherilyn said with a laugh. “Also, I’m a better ball-handler and passer, but she’s a better creator and scorer.
“During practice, we always worked on our ball-handling and passing drills. During the offseason, we work out with uncle James Nishimura with his ball-handling stations in club Pa’akai training. My plan now is to keep working out. I’m excited when my sisters come home in the summer so we can begin our training with coach Nishimura at the old Kona gym to improve and be ready to play at the next level.”
It’s more likely than not that Cherilyn Molina’s library of perfect achievements will remain forever locked. That’s a really hard mountain to climb, let alone to match half that. As is often the case, the last one out of the building takes the key home.
All-BIIF girls basketball
Cherilyn Molina, Konawaena, 12
Mikayla Tablit, Konawaena, 12
Kelsie Imai, Waiakea, 10
Mandi Kawaha, Hilo, 12
Caiyle Kaupu, Konawaena, 10
Jazelle Dorser, Waiakea, 9
Mindy Kawaha, Hilo, 10
BIIF player of the year
Cherilyn Molina, Konawaena
BIIF coach of the year
Brandon Kauhi, Waiakea
Konawaena: Kawena Kaohimaunu, Tanniya Uchida
Waiakea: Zaelynn Lui-Cabinatan, Keeli-Jade Smith, Bethany Honma
Hilo: Tatiana Rideout, Asia Castillo, Mele Vaka
Keaau: Destynee Williams, Anela Gonzales, Hunter Muranaka
Kealakehe: Sira-Claire Haunio, Iolani Kamakau, Chandice Fujihara-Kaai, Tiaria Kekuaokalani