Honokaa knew Kamehameha was much faster in transition on the basketball court, so the best strategy was to slow down the tempo on Friday.
First-year coach Aaron Tanimoto’s stall-ball strategy worked to perfection as the Dragons upset the Warriors 29-28 in a BIIF Division II showdown at Honokaa Armory.
It easily qualifies as the upset of the year, and that distinction will likely carry over into the season.
Kamehameha (2-1) has won the last two BIIF titles and finished runner-up twice at the HHSAA tournament. Honokaa (3-1) was in Division I the last two seasons and didn’t qualify for states.
Bella Fernandez scored eight points while Kuilei Akau and Kayla Branco each added six points for the Dragons.
Nique Pacheco scored 11 points, and Kenzie Kalawaia added seven points for the Warriors.
With the head-to-head win, the Dragons are in the driver’s seat for the BIIF regular season title, which includes the league’s first berth to states. However, per league rules, there must be an outright winner.
If the two teams have the same record, the state spots will be determined in the four-team BIIF playoffs, where the Warriors and Dragons are expected to meet for a rematch in the championship.
If the Warriors pocket a third straight BIIF crown, they’ll secure a first-round bye but will likely not get the No. 1 seed and face a more challenging road at states.
The league has a built-in reputation for a run-and-gun style. But Honokaa threw a perfect changeup, neutralizing Kamehameha’s floor speed as the visitors struggled to shoot or rebound.
In the first quarter, Kamehameha led 2-1. In the second period, both teams scored four points. It was 6-5 at halftime, the Warriors barely ahead.
The Dragons outscored them 11-8 in the third quarter. That was critical and provided the home team with a 16-14 lead heading into the final eight minutes.
Protecting the ball became a primary concern and draining the clock a close secondary objective. The limited number of possessions worked greatly in Honokaa’s favor.
The Warriors won the fourth quarter scoring margin, 14-13, but it wasn’t enough. Time ran out and so did their chances.
Kamehameha 2 4 8 14 — 28
Honokaa 1 4 11 13 — 29
• Hilo 50, Keaau 34: Mela Vaka led all scorers with 18 points for the host Vikings (3-1), who pulled away with a 20-point third quarter after leading 24-20 at halftime.
Jamilla Collins-Ebanez scored 12 points for the Vikings and Mandi Kawaha added 10.
Anela Gonsalves paced the Cougars (1-3) with 16 points and Destynee Williams had 13.
• Konawaena 70, Kohala 23: Cherilyn Molina led four scorers in double figures with 25 points as the Wildcats rolled at home.
Tanniya Uchida added 13 and Mikayla Tablit 10 and Kawena Kaohimaunu 10 apiece for Konawaena (4-0),
The Cowgirls (3-2) were led by Kiana Kauka (10 points).