Alexis Pana scored a game-high 17 points and combined with fellow freshman Sharlei Graham-Bernisto for 11 steals to energize a ferocious Hilo press in the final quarter as the Vikings rallied past rival Waiakea 37-33 on Thursday night at Kawananakoa Gym.
The Big Island Interscholastic Federation girls Division I basketball game — the season opener for both teams — looked like the Indy 500 at times. The hectic, full-court tempo produced a combined 58 turnovers — 25 for the Vikings and 33 for the Warriors.
But in the fourth quarter, with the game still hanging in the balance, Pana and Graham-Bernisto made the defensive plays that sparked a 17-8 run in the final 8 minutes.
The Warriors led 11-3 at the end of the first period and 15-9 at the intermission. They built the lead by being patient against the Vikings’ aggressive press and when cold-shooting Hilo missed, senior Sefulu Faavae or junior Shaila Apele grabbed the rebound.
But the Vikings regrouped at halftime and head coach Ben Pana instructed his young squad to push the pedal to the metal on the press.
“The coaches reminded the girls that defense will keep us in the game even if we’re not shooting the ball very well,” Pana said. “We didn’t bring our A game tonight on offense, but our defense really picked us up in the second half. And give Sharlei credit. She’s the smallest player on our team but she contributes big with her defense. When her teammates see her play all out like that, it sparks them to play harder, too.”
Junior Vanessa Ignacio hit a layup to give Waiakea a 29-28 lead with 4:24 left. But Alexis Pana then drove to the basket, drawing Faavae’s fifth foul. Pana made the second of two free throws to tie the score at 29-29 at 4:03.
Sophomore guard Kaydee Rapozo, who had a rock solid all-round performance, made a layup at the 2:43 mark to give Waiakea its last lead, at 31-29.
With 1:52 remaining, Aliyah Pana nailed a layup to tie it at 31, and Graham-Bernisto stole the ball again and scored to give Hilo a 33-31 advantage with 1:45 left. Alexis Pana then stole the ball and scored on a drive to make it 35-31 with 1:22 remaining.
Apele’s putback at 1:09 chopped the Vikings lead to 35-33, and Hilo opted to take some time off the clock on its next possession. Aliyah Pana, a 5-8 forward, was fouled with 24 seconds remaining and made one of two free throws for a 36-33 cushion.
The Warriors looked for a game-tying 3-pointer but turned the ball over, and an exhausted Alexis Pana hit one of two charity shots with 4 seconds left to close the scoring.
Alexis Pana scored 12 of her game-high 17 points in the second half. She also finished with a game-high six steals and three assists. Graham-Bernisto had seven points and five steals while Aliyah Pana (four steals) and freshman Shalyn Guthier each added six points.
Apele, a 5-9 power forward with a soft touch, led Waiakea with 12 points. Faavae, who kept the Warriors in the game with her sterling all-around play before fouling out, and sophomore Nicole Antonio each added six points.
Rapozo finished with five points, hitting a nifty pull-up jumper and a 3-pointer in the first half. The visitors also got a good effort from senior Keani Shirai, who helped Faavae, Rapozo and Antonio effectively handle the ball against Hilo’s press through three quarters.
Faavae also had nine rebounds, two blocked shots and four steals on the night.
“At the end of the game, Hilo outplayed us,” Waiakea coach Grant Kauhi said. “When we lost Sefulu (Faavae) and Keani (Shirai), we played into Hilo’s hands. We rushed and had plenty of turnovers. We’ll have to chalk this up as a learning experience and hope to do better next time.
“We’re like Hilo, a young team. But I told my girls tonight, both teams are really young so there are no excuses. We just have to keep getting better.”
Ben Pana praised the Warriors’ effort.
“Waiakea played smart, they were patient and controlled the tempo for a while,” he said. “But I’m really pleased with our second-half defense. Our girls really wanted it in the end and never quit. They played really tough defense and in the fourth quarter, the pressure really paid off.”
Waiakea 11 4 10 8 — 33
Hilo 3 6 11 17 — 37
c Hawaii Prep 34, Kealakehe 30: Sophomore forward Ula Brostek scored a game-high 12 points, and sophomore forward Anna Juan added 10 points for visiting Ka Makani, which led 20-12 at halftime before holding on at the end in the season opener for both teams.
Kehau Lee scored a team-high 10 points for the Waveriders.
Hawaii Prep 12 8 8 6 — 34
Kealakehe 6 6 9 9 — 30
c Keaau 50, Pahoa 33: At Pahoa, Maydina Ongais-Kilaulani scored 16 points, and Taylor Pocock added 11 to lead the Division I Cougars over the Division II Daggers in the season opener for both teams.
Macey Mokuhalii and Randi Berinobis each had 11 points for Pahoa.
Keaau 17 10 12 11 — 50
Pahoa 11 12 4 6 — 33
c Kamehameha-Hawaii 64, Ka’u 29: Junior Casey Poe scored a game-high 16 points in Pahala for the defending Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II champion Warriors in the season opener for both teams.
Shyann Flores led the Trojans with six points, while Casey Koi and Denisha Navarro added four apiece.
In the JV game, Kamehameha defeated Ka’u 40-27.
c Honokaa at Kohala: The home team of Kohala did report information on this contest.
West Hawaii Today’s Joe Ferraro contributed to this report.