Two champions played for a berth in the Hawaii High School Athletic Association girls Division II championship Friday night at Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium and the closer they got to the end, the tighter the game became.
In the end, Interscholastic League of Hawaii champion Mid-Pacific outlasted Big Island Interscholastic Federation champ Kamehameha- 32-28 to advance to Saturday’s state championship game against Hanalani, a 51-42 winner over Hawaii Baptist Academy earlier in the day.
Mid-Pacific might have thought it had an open run to the final after roaring out to a 12-3 in the first quarter, but the rest of the game went in the other direction.
“We knew it would be a tough game,” said Mid-Pac coach Reid Sagawa, “because we know about Kamehameha, they are very good and the won’t quit, they played very hard and we were fortunate to win.”
Kamehameha kept the pressure up defensively and played at a deliberate pace that managed to slow the Mid-Pac offense, and the Warriors outscored the Owls 19-14 in the middle two periods and got the deficit down to one at 29-28 with two minutes left, but Mid-Pac was able to hang on.
A critical factor were the two quick fouls, numbers three and four, on Kamehameha guard Nique Pacheco in the third quarter that prompted her father and coach to send her to the bench.
“I’m so proud of our girls, they way they battled, they way they came back,” said coach Dominic Pacheco, “and I have to say, yes, that hurt when my daughter went out. We have to play a different way when she isn’t in there, but I will say she is the best guard in D-II, hands down. I am really proud of her.”
Sagawa agreed with that.
“It didn’t get easier,” he said, “but no doubt, they are better with her in there, she’s a great player.”
There were several times that Mid-Pac double-teamed Pacheco, but she still finished with eight points and three rebounds, eventually fouling out with five seconds left after the warriors missed a shot and had to foul to prevent the Owls from running out the clock.
Madisyn Sagawa led both teams in scoring with 15, her teammate Paige Fahrni made all four of her shots and finished with 10.
Kamehameha’s Sarah Schubert led both teams with 11 rebounds and added 11 points to top the Warriors.
“To me,” said Dom Pacheco, “that was the state championship game, but they played their hearts out and, you know, somebody’s gotta win and somebody’s gotta lose.”
Seven points by Sagawa, including a 3-pointer that opened the game’s scoring, and a layup with one second left on the clock fueled the Owls to a 12-3 lead in the first quarter, but Kamehameha started its comeback midway through the second quarter, when it trailed 18-5.
Pacheco got it started with a baseline move and bucket in traffic, and she came away with a foul shot. Her three-point play made it 18-8 and kicked off an 8-0 run that featured another Pacheco basket and one more by Megan Baldado that shrunk the lead to 18-13 with 2:31 left.
The Warriors got the ball back with 1:40 on the clock, but Mid-Pac was content to sit back in its zone defense, so Pacheco just dribbled most of the clock out near mid court and until 12 seconds were left. Her drive and dish to the baseline was unrewarded, leaving the score 18-13, with Mid-Pac having gone the last 5:08 of the quarter without a point.