KEAAU — It’s rare to catch Kamehameha senior Casey Poe smiling on the court because she’s all about business, even as she adds to her legacy.
Poe had an inspired all-around performance as the Warriors thumped Kohala 67-28 in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II girls semifinals Friday at Keaau High’s gym.
The senior forward scored 23 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and snagged seven steals for the Warriors (9-3), who secured a berth at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament.
Kamehameha plays Honokaa (10-2) at 6 p.m. today at Keaau for the BIIF Division II title. The Warriors have won the last six championships.
“It’s another game, and it’s another game to play hard and with heart,” said Poe, a starter as a freshman with three BIIF championships to her name. “I know it’s my last year and I’ll give it all I’ve got.”
Riana Arima added 15 points, draining a pair of 3-pointers, Caitlin Poe had 14 points and Makamae Gabriel slashed to the rim for nine points for Kamehameha, which got off to its customary slow start and trailed 8-4 early but quickly recovered.
Hauoli Sproat-Lancaster scored 12 points, Tezrah Antonio seven, Naai Solomon-Lewis six and Brittany Shimono had a 3-pointer to account for all of the scoring for the Cowgirls (6-6).
Kohala faces HPA (5-7) at 4:30 p.m. today in the third-place game for the league’s last berth at states.
The stat that best sums up the game for Kohala is its 34 turnovers, free gifts the Warriors feasted on and turned into easy layups.
“Bad passing led to too many turnovers,” Kohala coach Adam Harrison said. “We had a good start, but once the pressure came our girls got overexcited. It’s something we have to keep working on. We’re a young team with good talent, but we’ve got to work on that.
“Basically against HPA, the key is to keep our turnovers down. If we can do that, we’ll be all right. Everything else looks good. If our turnovers stay down, we’ll be fine on defense and scoring.”
Meanwhile, once the Warriors tightened their half-court trap, they put together long scoring runs, especially with a dominant second quarter, outscoring the Cowgirls 21-4 to seize a 44-16 halftime cushion.
“We made adjustments with our half-court traps. The girls were out of position,” Kamehameha coach Garrett Arima said. “The girls were a little jittery and had some butterflies. But if we do that against Honokaa we’ll be in for a long night. We have to come out focused like Kohala did, fired up and ready to go.”
In the first quarter, the Warriors were behind 8-4, not exactly on the ropes. The game was still young. But the two-time defending state champs weren’t in any kind of groove.
In the blink of an eye, Kiera Kua-Ramirez scored on a layup, Casey Poe added another off a turnover, and then Gabriel ripped to the basket and dished to Poe, who finished for a 10-8 lead.
The Warriors ran their vanilla offense, going with a high-low post game with Poe and Gabriel. They fired away from long distance, but didn’t offer anything from their playbook in half-court sets. However, Gabriel got a chance to display her dribble-penetration skills.
It was part of the cat-and-mouse game with Honokaa to show very little. But at the same time, Gabriel’s slashing to the rim gave the Dragons something to think about. Her versatility puts a smile on her coach’s face.
“Maka has become our slasher and that gives her and Casey a different look in the post,” Arima said. “Maka has sharpened her game on offense and now she’s a threat. We tell the girls to be the one that opposing teams are talking about in the locker room. She’s mixing things up in the post and complements Casey.”
Arima pointed out that Poe is the stabilizing force if there’s a deficit or if her teammates need reassurance that a burst of moment is just around the corner. The Warriors didn’t look like themselves at the start. Then Poe got them going.
“For four years, she’s been our defensive stopper and offensive go-to player. Today was no different,” he said. “She’s done this for the last three years (in the BIIF championship), and we’ve got nothing less than that from her.
“We’ll be ready to go and we’re going to compete with Honokaa and give it all we’ve got out there.”
Kohala 12 4 7 5 — 28
Kamehameha 23 21 17 6 — 67