BIIF basketball: Honokaa girls find success at slow tempo

RICK OGATA photo Honokaa's Sharissa Bird (13) soars to the rim ahead of Keaau's Destynee Williams during a preseason game. For information on purchasing an Ogata photo, email

The Honokaa girls are finding a nice comfort level at embracing their tempo of choice on the basketball court.

In the past, the Dragons have played fast, like a rabbit racing to the rim. But in the old tale, the hare lost to the tortoise.

On Dec. 29, Honokaa relied on an effective stall-ball strategy and upended Kamehameha 29-28 at home, where the tortoise held the ball, and the rabbits couldn’t run.

At halftime, the Warriors led 6-5. After three quarters, the Dragons were ahead 16-14. In the fourth quarter, the visitors won the scoring margin, 14-13, but lost the game.

Prior to the contest, Honokaa coach Aaron Tanimoto and Kamehameha coach Weston Willard joked about a game on Oahu where one team got the lead and just stalled.

“I told him that we’re capable of low-scoring quarters, and sure enough it was 2-1 (Kamehameha ahead) after one quarter,” Tanimoto said. “It’s OK because we’re probably a team that will be in tight games throughout, so hopefully our team is developing the resolve to win the close ones.

“It was a gutsy win for us. Both teams didn’t play their best, but our girls found a way to do the little things that got us over the top.”

Konawaena has become a grandmaster at protecting a late lead and closing out games. That time-management strategy has led to eight HHSAA Division I titles, including the last three.

At the state tournament, the Wildcats routinely give the ILH powerhouses a taste of their own medicine by draining the clock once a lead is in hand and hitting free throws.

Maybe more stall-ball or time-management strategy (the shinier term) will take shape in the New Year, especially during the four-team BIIF playoffs in February.

Honokaa (3-1) hits the road to play Kohala (3-1) on Wednesday in a BIIF Division II clash, where limited possessions or fast-breaks could work for either team.

In more of a rabbit race, Honokaa didn’t matchup up well against Waiakea, which ran away with a 45-34 victory last Wednesday.

The Dragons face another Division I foe in Hilo on Friday at the Vikings Gym, where Honokaa’s ball-security, patience, and rebounding will be tested.

Over on the boys side, there’s no team better at applying late-game time management than Waiakea, the two-time defending BIIF D-I champion.

Under coach Paul Lee, the strategy has been to win each quarter and turn the clock into the opponent’s enemy. When teams get desperate and chase the ball, that’s when the Warriors capitalize on mismatches and extend the lead.

Waiakea (2-1) visits Keaau (2-1) in a crucial BIIF D-I showdown on Thursday. The loser will be tailgating in what’s the most competitive of the four league races.

During the preseason, the Warriors held off the Cougars 54-48 in a game where Keaau learned a few hard lessons.

The Cougars made just 8 of 20 free throws. They struggled against Waiakea’s 2-3 zone and shot 34 percent, including 5 of 20 from 3-point range.

In the rematch, one thing is certain: If the Warriors have a late lead, they’ll hold the ball and drain the clock — the best way to close out games.

However, if the Cougars have a late lead, the ball will be in the hands of steady senior point guard Rico Handy, who will borrow a page from Waiakea.