HONOLULU — The third quarter has been kind to Konawaena in big games as of late.
After leading just 24-19 at the half against Moanalua in the HHSAA Division I quarterfinals on Oahu, the Wildcats stepped on the gas out of the break, riding a 20-4 run in the third quarter to down Na Menehune 59-32 on Thursday.
“In the first half we didn’t shoot the ball well and didn’t run the floor. It was just ugly basketball,” Konawaena head coach Bobbie Awa said. “In the second half, they cleaned it up and started to play Konawaena basketball — playing well in transition and making that extra pass.”
The Wildcats pulled off a similar third quarter feat in the BIIF championship game against Waiakea, outscoring the Warriors 15-1 after trailing at half to roll to a 10th consecutive league title.
“They put a lot of pressure on themselves at the beginning of the game,” Awa said. “I think just getting in the locker room and talking story during the half helps loosen them up.”
Cherilyn Molina led the way with a double-double for the Wildcats, scoring 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting and collecting 11 rebounds — seven of those boards being offensive.
“She did a great job positioning herself under the basket,” Awa said of Molina. “We didn’t shoot great on our layups but she crashed the boards hard and made up for it.”
The most shocking stat of the game was that the usually sharpshooting ‘Cats finished 1-of-16 from 3-point range. Konawaena did shoot 57 percent from inside the arc, and 10-of-13 from the free throw line.
“I think the girls might have finally got the message in the second half,” Awa said with a laugh. “Our 3s just weren’t falling.”
With the win, the Wildcats advance to their ninth semifinal appearance in 10 years and are two victories away from a fourth consecutive state title. Konawaena will face a familiar opponent in the semis in Lahainaluna, which beat Iolani 38-36 later Thursday.
The Wildcats and Lunas are frequent preseason opponents, last facing off in the state tournament in the 2015 title game, a contest the Wildcats won 51-41, igniting a run of three consecutive state banners.
The squads also faced off earlier this season at Konawaena’s invitational tournament, with the Lunas pulling out a 44-42 win in double-overtime.
“It’s stressful, but it’s preseason,” Lahainaluna head coach Todd Rickard said after that contest. “It’s nothing like a state tournament game. That’s when the stress comes out.”
Konawaena will have a chance to avenge that loss on the big stage, where they have plenty of experience. What also helps is that every player on the Wildcats roster was able to see the court and recorded at least a bucket against Moanalua.
“It’s important for us to see the other girls come in, be contributors, and get that state tournament experience. We know it might not be like that in the upcoming games though,” Awa said. “My seniors, they are going to have to be the ones to lead the team.”
Tanniya Uchida was the other double-digit scorer out of the Konawaena backcourt, adding 12 points, while senior Mikayla Tablit turned in a packed stat line of six points, seven rebounds, four assists and four steals.
Konawaena 13 11 20 16 — 59
Moanalua 10 9 4 9 — 32