Honokaa blasts past Kohala


Despite operating against a 3-2 defense designed to limit points in the paint, they established a strong post game behind Jasmine Castro and Hunter Liftee. Then they couldn’t miss from behind the 3-point arc. They even forced a few turnovers that led to a healthy amount of fast-break points.

In a nutshell, everything the Honokaa Dragons offered at the rim was going in Friday in a girls basketball game at Kealakehe, and the Kohala Cowgirls had a hard time keeping up.

Shayla Ignacio scored 14 points, and Castro followed with 13 as Honokaa defeated Kohala 69-33 in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II tournament semifinals.

With the victory, Honokaa (7-2) advanced to today’s BIIF Division II final at Kealakehe, where they will face five-time defending league champion Kamehameha-Hawaii (8-3) at 6 p.m.

Both teams have earned berths in the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state tournament, which takes place Feb. 5-8 on Oahu.

As they have done all season, the Dragons displayed some deadly long-distance shooting against the Cowgirls (3-7), who will face Hawaii Prep (5-5) at 4:30 p.m. today in a third-place game that will determine the league’s final state tournament berth.

Honokaa went 7-for-12 on 3-pointers in the contest, including 5-of-6 in the first half to take a 44-16 lead at intermission.

Castro played a role in creating open shots from behind the arc in the first quarter by scoring six quick points in the paint against Kohala’s zone defense.

“They started to double-team (in the post), and we had to work with it and find the open man,’’ Castro said.

That’s exactly what the Dragons did, making their first three treys — Ignacio, Keana Kaohimaunu and Kizzah Maltezo each hit one — in the first quarter.

Maltezo, Liftee, Kaohimaunu finished with 10 points apiece in the contest.

“Going against the zone, you have to able to shoot,’’ Honokaa coach James Lukzen said. “You’re going to get in a lot of trouble if you can’t make some shots.’’

Even though Kohala shot a more-than-respectable 44 percent from the field in the first quarter (4-of-9), they still trailed 22-9 after the first period.

The Dragons’ hot shooting put Kohala in a pick-your-poison situation. Honokaa shot 57 percent from the field in the first half.

“You have to gamble somewhere,’’ Cowgirls coach Julia McPeek said.

Honokaa turned up its defensive pressure in the second quarter, scoring the first 10 points of the period and forcing seven turnovers that led to nine fast-break points.

A Liftee layup with 5 minutes, 41 seconds left in the first half made it 31-9, and Honokaa was well on its way to a BIIF final rematch against Kamehameha.

In last season’s championship game, Honokaa led 32-29 after three quarters before the Warriors rallied for a 45-40 victory.

Lukzen said the Dragons must limit their turnovers and slow down at least one of the Warriors’ two prolific scorers: junior forward Casey Poe and sophomore guard Riana Arima.

“We just have to play hard the whole game and not give up,’’ said Castro, who also pulled down five rebounds. “I know we can do this.’’

Senior guard Sheana Cazimero led Kohala with 14 points.

Meanwhile, McPeek said the Cowgirls will enter their game against Ka Makani with some confidence considering they enjoyed a 16-point lead against HPA in the first meeting between the teams before Ka Makani rallied for a victory.

“They’ll be mentally prepared,’’ McPeek said. “They’ll be ready.’’

Kohala 9 7 12 5 — 33

Honokaa 22 22 17 8 — 69