Waiakea was hitting on all cylinders, and Jazelle “Jazzie” Dorser had a King-sized breakout game with 21 points on 10 of 14 shooting, getting her comfortable elbow shots and showing her diversity with seven steals and five rebounds.
The Warriors resembled ball-hawks and threw Campbell in a defensive washing machine in a 77-56 win in the first round of the HHSAA Division I tournament on Monday at their gym, in their first state appearance since 2012.
That year, Waiakea lost to Lahainaluna 46-28 in the state quarterfinals. Then there was a changing of the guard in the BIIF. Well, one part at least, because things have stayed the same for Konawaena, which continues to dominate the landscape.
Hilo, with a wave of young talent, secured the BIIF runner-up spot for the next five years while the Warriors stayed home from states.
It’s their turn now with a roster of no seniors, four juniors, six sophomores, and three freshmen, including the versatile 5-foot-8 Dorser.
Waiakea (10-3) plays No. 4 seed and OIA champion Kalani (11-2) in the quarterfinals at 5 pm. Thursday at Moanalua High’s gym on Oahu.
No. 2 seed and 10-time BIIF champion Konawaena (12-0) plays Moanalua (10-4) at 5 p.m. Thursday at McKinley High’s gym.
Zaelynn Lui-Cabinatan soared for layups and added 15 points on 7 of 11 shooting, Keeli-Jade Smith had 13 points on 4 of 8 shooting, and Kelsie Imai put in 12 points for Waiakea, which shot 51 percent (32 of 63) from the floor, including 2 of 9 from long range.
“We were hitting our shots, and Jazzie had a big game,” Waiakea coach Brandon Kauhi said. “It’s the first time we played without Kelsie (who had foul trouble and played 24 minutes), but others stepped up. We were able to attack and defend well.”
Unlike Waiakea, the Sabers (10-5) didn’t get balanced scoring, and Gieani Balino led the with way with 24 points on 8 of 19 shooting while Danielle Silva added 12 points. Campbell shot 43 percent (21 of 49) on field goals, including 7 of 17 from 3-point distance.
Free throws didn’t really come into play. Waiakea went 7 of 17 and probably could use more practice before heading to Oahu while Campbell was 11 of 18 from the line.
The Warriors terrorized the OIA Sabers with a 1-2-2 press and forced 33 turnovers, including 13 in the first quarter, and bolted to a 21-6 lead.
Dorser and Lui-Cabinatan had 11 points each at halftime when the Warriors held a sizable 39-25 cushion.
When Campbell threw over the top and misfired, Dorser and Smith played cornerback and compiled seven steals each. Imai had six steals and nine rebounds, establishing her presence in the paint and perimeter. The sophomore point guard bombed 2 of 3 from beyond the arc.
The Warriors moved the ball with precision ball-sharing with 26 assists against 16 turnovers. Dorser had five assists, often dishing to her partner in the post, Smith, while Keighsha Walker came off the bench and had five assists.
Dorser’s hot shooting didn’t come by accident. The Waiakea coaches opened the gym on Sunday, and there was Dorser working on her elbow shots, baseline jumpers, and up-and-under post moves. She knows of Boston Celtics Hall of Famer Kevin McHale, the grand master of post moves.
“Jazzie put in extra time. She’s undersized as a center, but she gets by with heart and effort against taller girls,” Kauhi said.
Dorser is a deadly spot-up shooter because she has consistent mechanics with her catch-and-shoot. It’s not every day someone shoots 71 percent on field goals. Dorser also went 1 of 1 from the free throw line, finding alternatives to puncture the physical Sabers.
“I just try to work hard every single time,” she said. “I think I could have done better. I tried to.”
Most of the Warriors play for coach Kauhi’s Hawaii Elite club team during the offseason. Dorser plays with coach Randy Apele’s Hoop Dreams club team because she came up through that program.
Dorser got her start in hoops the old-fashioned way. Her dad Justin Dorser, who played ball at St. Joseph, brought her along to pick-up games. Clayton Honma, sophomore guard Bethany Honma’s dad, drafted her on his team, and Dorser took flight.
To build her toughness, her dad encouraged her to play against boys. Dorser also was tutored by Jason Mandaquit, the Hilo ringleader of the BIIF’s last Division I boys championship in 2000. She then joined Hoop Dreams.
If the blueprint of ball-sharing, tenacious defense and team chemistry built from club ball sounds familiar, that’s because Waiakea is following in the footsteps of Konawaena, the three-time defending state champion, which is finally aging out with key seniors in Cherilyn Molina, Mikayla Tablit, and Kawena Kaohimaunu.
The Lunas, from the Valley Isle, won a state title in 2010 and finished second in 2014 and ’15. Maryknoll, the ILH powerhouse, has leapfrogged Lahainaluna and placed runner-up the last two years.
Whether Waiakea can crash that party remains to be seen. Should the Warriors take out Kalani, they’ll likely face the Maryknoll Spartans, powered by their scoring firepower and trapping defense, in the semifinals.
For arm-chair quarterbacks who wondered why Waiakea didn’t full-court press Konawaena in a 48-29 BIIF championship loss, the answer is simple. That’s a death sentence against the Wildcats, whose press-break offense has enough ball-handlers to punish that gambling defense.
“Campbell has one guard, and Konawaena has three, and they’ve got really good ball movement,” Kauhi said.
In a three-possession sequence of fast-break beauty, Lui-Cabinatan, Imai, and Dorser each scored a bucket at the end of the third quarter to put Waiakea ahead 58-37. First, Lui-Cabinatan beat the Sabers down the court for a layup, then Imai outran everyone and swished a 3-ball, and finally, Imai and Dorser did a relay run. Imai dished to Dorser, who easily scored.
Asked her favorite player, Dorser pointed to LeBron James, the current King of the NBA in the minds of many, a viewpoint that stretches all the way to Waiakea.
“He’s an all-around player,” she said. “He shoots and has post moves.”
Dorser didn’t take any 3-point attempts, but she took smart shots, rebounded, dished assists, and made a good impression of her favorite player.
Campbell 6 19 12 19 — 56
Waiakea 21 18 19 19 — 77