Kamehameha-Hawaii and Honokaa will engage in a historic rematch, only this time with much bigger stakes on the line.
Kamehameha overpowered Hanalani 73-53 behind a combined 54 points from Riana Arima and Casey Poe, while Honokaa beat Kauai 58-55 in the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II state semifinals Thursday at Kalani High School on Oahu.
The Warriors (11-3) and Dragons (9-3) will play at 5 p.m. today for the Division II championship at Neal Blaisdell Center, marking the first time two Big Island Interscholastic Federation girls basketball teams will oppose each other in a state final. OC16 will televised the game on channels 12 and 1012.
On Wednesday, the BIIF landed two teams in the Division I semifinals and two more in the Division II semis, a first-time feat.
“It’s always great when you’re part of history,” Kamehameha coach Garrett Arima said. “It’s something the girls worked so hard for. It’s an honor to be there. Lots of teams work hard all year to get here, but only two teams can be in the championship.”
The Warriors and Dragons live in the same BIIF neighborhood but don’t know each other all that well. They played just once this season — in the BIIF Division II championship, a 49-48 thriller Kamehameha won for its sixth straight league title.
As per custom, the 1-2 scoring punch of Arima, who hit jumpers, layups and 3-point shots for 32 points, and Poe, who added 22 points, carried the Warriors.
But it always helps to have a group of five play defense to help fuel fast-break points for Arima and Poe, a key the Kamehameha coach neatly pointed out.
“Despite playing solid defense, they still had great games offensively,” Arima said. “Riana shot the ball really well. She hit outside jumpers, attacked the basket and got layups off our defense. It was a great team effort, and our defense allowed us to get uncontested layups.”
A 1-2 punch proved to be much better than a single shot-maker. Sarah Liva went off for 34 points to lead the Royals (9-4), the Interscholastic League of Honolulu’s No. 3 team.
Hanalani didn’t help itself at the free throw line, throwing up bricks and going 12-for-29 for 41 percent. Liva went 4-for-13. Kamehameha made 20-of-34 for 59 percent.
Meanwhile, the Dragons continued their good habit of winning close ballgames. They beat McKinley 58-48 in the first round and Hawaii Baptist 37-35 in the quarterfinals.
“Our girls are growing up, gaining experience and learning how to win close games,” Honokaa coach James Lukzen said. “Hunter Liftee played big again. She plugged up the middle on defense. Kauai had three big girls — good size, stocky and strong underneath. She sagged in the middle and helped the lanes.”
Liftee scored 14 points, and Keana Kaohimaunu added 10, but Shayla Ignacio led the way with 16 points, including 5 of 6 free throws down the stretch. She made 1 of 2 with 3.5 seconds left for a 58-55 lead.
Then Kauai point guard Kristie Henry dribbled down the court, pulled up at the 3-point arc and fired. The ball went in, but not before the game-ending buzzer sounded. Henry, who lit up Kalani for 30 points in the quarterfinals, was dangerous to the end.
Against the Dragons, she scored 21 points to lead the Red Raiders (9-1), the Kauai Interscholastic Federation champion. Casey Anacleto added 17 points as the designated shooter in Kauai’s pick-and-roll offense.
Now the Dragons have a chance to make school history. No Honokaa basketball team, either boys or girls, has won a state title. The Honokaa girls lost to Punahou 60-37 for the state championship in 1997.
“We’re eager to have a second chance against Kamehameha,” Lukzen said. “We lost the BIIF championship to them, but we can win the bigger trophy. We have to try and stop two of their scorers. Henry is very good, but Kamehameha has two of those.
“In that BIIF championship, they got to the free throw line 20 times in the first half. Kamehameha is very aggressive going to the basket. If they see a lane, they’ll make up their mind and go. Our help side needs to step in and draw a charge. If we want to win, we have to play defense.”
Lukzen and his Dragons don’t need to be reminded that defense wins championships. The Warriors know that too. They’re the defending state champs, after all.
Either way, Arima pointed out that the BIIF is the big winner.
“With Konawaena, it’s great that we’ve got three teams in the finals,” he said. “That tells a lot about where Big Island basketball is at. I’m proud of all the teams. We’ll have to see what happens in the championships.”
Honokaa 8 20 14 16 — 58
Kauai 12 12 13 18 — 55
Hanalani 8 17 16 12 — 53
Kamehameha 15 20 18 20 — 73