HILO — Chanelle Molina, who has an uncanny ability to score and set up others at the right time, always gives Konawaena a chance with her game-changing skills set.
The 5-foot-6 sophomore point guard is a big reason the Wildcats beat Hilo 48-45 in a Big Island Interscholastic Federation girls basketball game Saturday night at Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium.
Molina scored 17 points and posted four assists, her last to Jasmine Perea, who had the go-ahead score with a layup and free throw with 5.1 seconds remaining. It was the perfect pass, after Molina picked up a bouncing turnover on the other end, dribbled down the court, and gave up the ball at the right time.
“Both teams played really good defense. They pressured us and knew I was really the only ball-handler,” Molina said. “That was smart coaching by coach Ben Pana. But our whole team knew they had to step up. Everyone did their part and stepped up.
“I looked up and saw we had 10 seconds. After I got down the court, they double-teamed me and I looked and Jazz was wide open. She not only made the basket with her left hand, but the free throw, too. This gives us big momentum.”
Perea, a 5-8 junior and first-time starter, added 14 points for the Wildcats (4-0), who converted 38 percent (17 of 45) from the field, a stat that summed up the difficulty shooting against Hilo’s sticky man-to-man defense.
The Vikings threw tough-nosed 5-4 sophomore Sharlei Graham-Bernisto on Molina, who was often double-teamed in half-court sets — the primary pace of the game, not the uptempo transition track race Pana wanted.
“We were looking for a mismatch,” Molina said. “When Sharlei was on me, I was looking to post her up and looking for an open shooter. If they double, one person will be open.”
But Molina is the primary ball-handler, so when the ball was kicked out the Wildcats couldn’t send back an entry pass to the post. Hilo’s man defense caused trouble, but Konawaena’s inexperience (Molina and Mercedes “Ihi” Victor are the only returning starters) played a part, too.
The biggest difference was giveaways. Konawaena had 23 turnovers, including seven in the fourth quarter. Hilo had only eight turnovers, including two in the final period.
“It was so scrambled egg. Our girls were so pumped-up they couldn’t settle down. We couldn’t run our offensive sets in the first half,” Konawaena coach Bobbie Awa said. “In the second half, the girls calmed down and settled down. That layup by Jazz was huge. She can finish on both sides of the basket. If she missed, I would have been, ‘Oh, you should have shot with your right hand.’ Chanelle made the right decision with the ball.”
Every time the Vikings tried to run and score a layup in transition, Konawaena defenders were already at the other end waiting. Hilo got high-percentage shots close to the basket because of precision interior passing. But the Vikings made just 31 percent (17 of 55) from the floor. Shalyn Guthier scored 11 points, Aliyah Pana added nine and Alexis Pana had eight for Hilo (3-1).
UH-Manoa coach Laura Beeman made the trip over to scout Molina, who has been offered a scholarship, and Alexis Pana, who’s also a unique package as a 5-9 sophomore point guard with smooth shooting and ball-handling skills.
Beeman got a good dose of Molina’s skills set in the third quarter. Konawaena was down 25-24 at halftime, but Molina sparked a 14-0 run that built a 38-25 lead that later disappeared when Aliyah Pana’s 3-pointer tied it at 38 to conclude the third quarter.