Forget about eight players, or even seven.
Six has been enough for Honokaa High’s girls basketball team of late.
Kaena Tagabi scored 21 points Monday night and the depth-deprived Dragons staved off Ka’u 49-45 for their second straight victory at home in what is shaping up as a competitive BIIF Division II race.
“We’re playing good enough to get us by, but we need to get better,” first-year coach Keisha Kanekoa said.
Kanekoa took over the reins of her alma mater just as practice was beginning and inherited a roster of seven, but she’s since lost a player.
Honokaa (2-3) lost its first three games – to Waiakea, Hilo and Kamehameha – but it beat Hawaii Prep for its first victory last week and followed that up by holding off the Trojans (3-4), who fell into first-place tie with Kamehameha.
“We’re going to see these teams again in the playoffs,” Kanekoa said, “so we have to get better. Everyone is pretty even.”
Destynee Carvalho added 11 points for Honokaa in a contest that Kanekoa said was a one – or two-possession game during the final three minutes.
Reishalyn Jara led Ka’u with 17 points and Heidi Vidal scored 11, but it wasn’t enough to deny Tagabi, who has come through time and again for the Dragons this season, her coach said.
“If we’re going to do good, she has to do good,” Kanekoa said.
Her first BIIF head coaching foray is turning out to be quite a different experience compared to her playing days as a Dragon. Arguably the greatest player in program history, Kanekoa led Honokaa to a third place finish at the state Division I tournament in 2007, and she went on to a standout career at the University of Hawaii.
“It’s a challenge,” she said of only having one available reserve.
Earlier in the season, the Dragons tried playing zone defense – coaches sometimes utilize the tactic to keep their players fresher on the court – but Kanekoa didn’t feel like the team had the right mindset, so she’s since switched to man-to-man.
“It forces them to stay in shape,” she said.
Honokaa is 2-1 against Division II teams, having fallen to Kamehameha 50-26 on Dec. 6.
“Mentally, physically and emotionally, we weren’t ready,” Kanekoa said.
On Wednesday, Ka’u visits Kamehameha in a battle for first place.
Hilo 56, Keaau 19: Veda Galima scored 14 points and Mandy Kawaha added 10 as the Vikings (6-1) won on the road.
Anela Gonzalez-Tremaine led the Cougars (4-3) with 14 points.
The Vikings led 36-14 at halftime.
Kealakehe 1, Kamehameha 0: Teddy Rubenstein ended a scoreless tie in the 73rd minute, sending the Waveriders (6-2-1) past the visiting Warriors (7-5).
Hilo 9, Ka’u 0: Riley Patterson scored four goals at Hilo Bayfront, giving him 23 on the season, and Logan Mizuba tacked on his seventh and eighth goals.
Josh Rosario also scored twice for the Vikings (6-2), winners of six in a row, and Ko’ae Pe’a also had a goal.
Jase Ambrojo collected the shutout against the Trojans (0-10).
Kamehameha 2, Kealakehe 0: Kaila Ambrosio scored her 10th and 11th goals just before halftime, and the Warriors made another successful trip to West Hawaii.
On Saturday, Ambrosio scored twice near the end of regulation as Kamehameha (7-3) beat Konawaena 2-1 in Kealakekua.
Kaylia Galindo was credited with the shutout of the Waveriders (3-7), who have lost three in a row.
Hilo 15, Ka’u 0: Jordyn Pacheco scored four goals at Hilo Bayfront, Kalamanamana Harman netted a hat trick and Haley Miyasato finished with two goals and three assists.
Jazlin Menino scored twice for the Vikings (9-0-1), Payton Saguid and Hollie Saplan collected a goal and an assist and Miya Clarke and Kekai Kalaola-Bowman had a goal each.
Anaseini Sipinga, Caneel Corpuz and Kali’u Boteilho combined on the shutout of the Trojans (0-10),
Pacheco took over the team lead with 15 goals and Clarke put home her 14th.