The Wildcats won the tip, raced out to an early lead and never trailed against visiting Hawaii Baptist Academy Thursday night at the Konawaena Girls Basketball Tournament, winning 42-23 and improving their record to 8-1.
Sophomore sensation Chanelle Molina led the charge for Konawaena, showing off an impressive skill set on her way to a game-high 17 points.
Molina routinely drove past defenders to the rim, hit from beyond the arc, completed acrobatic passes and played stifling defense leading to uncontested baskets on the other end.
“Chanelle has been working hard,” Konawaena head coach Bobbie Awa said. “She is only a sophomore, but with the amount of time she has put in you could not tell. She knows she has a lot of responsibility and has a young team around her. ”
Center Jasmine Perea — a transfer from Alaska — tallied 13 points in the win. Perea put on a clinic with a variety of post moves and powered through fouls for three-point plays.
“We call her our Eskimo,” said Konawaena assistant coach Jessica Hanato. “We are very fortunate to have got her. She has got a lot to offer and understands what it going on.”
After entering the half down by double-digits, the Eagles came out with a new strategy in the third quarter. Their wait-and-see approach led to extended possessions, keeping the ball out of the hands of the high-powered Wildcat offense.
“They did a good job of moving the ball around and looking for the holes in our zone,” Awa said. “We took five shots the whole third quarter. If you take five shots, you have to make all of those five shots.”
Combined with some Konawaena mistakes, the Wildcats scored only two third quarter points and the Eagles cut the lead to seven.
However, the Wildcats adjusted in the fourth quarter and pulled away with a 16-point effort in the final frame.
“We have been having one quarter where we lag every game,” Awa said. “ It has not necessarily been all third quarters, but the lag is there.”
Hanato echoed Awa’s analysis of her young team.
“Tonight we played good in spurts,” Hanato said. “We started strong and finished strong, but we are having a hard time putting a whole game together.”
Awa also noted the Wildcats were without Mercedes “Ihi” Victor Thursday night. The second-team West Hawaii selection is expected to return Friday.
The leading scorer for HBA was Jenne Brown with nine points.
Konawaena’s opponent tonight is the Lady Lunas of Lahainaluna, visiting from Maui. The game should serve as a measuring stick for the Wildcats.
“It’s early in the season and they usually say preseason doesn’t count, but it does,” Awa said. “We are normally the top team on our island and Lahainaluna is the top team on their island. We both have a lot of experience playing at the state level and have both played some good games in the preseason.”
In their first game of the tournament, the Maui Interscholastic League powerhouse defeated HPA convincingly, 77-24.
Lahainaluna forced numerous errant passes and a handful of backcourt violations by HPA with consistent full-court pressure.
The twin sister duo of Taylor and Lindsay Bates provided Lahainaluna with a speedy transition game and also showed off their range from beyond the arc. The sisters combined for 25 points Thursday night.
Junior guard Fiemea Hafoka also filled up the box score, leading the Lunas with 16 points.
Ka Makani had a difficult time dealing with the size of Lahainaluna. The Lady Lunas boast multiple players with size inside, including junior forward/center Folau Hafoka and towering freshman center Kalo Uhila.
“I don’t think we match up well, but we are going to play our kind of game with them,” Awa said.
Ula Brostek led HPA with 11 points.
In other tournament action, Honokaa defeated Mid-Pac 49-41 in the early game. The Dragons were led by Chanis Fernadez with 19 points. Today, Honokaa will face off against Hilo at 6:30 p.m.
The best action of the day came between Kamehameha-Hawaii and Mid Pacific Institute in the late game.
The teams were close all game and as the clock approached the final minute, Kamehameha held a slim two-point lead. Thanks to a few missed Mid-Pac free throws and a quick basket, the Warriors held on to win 54-51.
Casey Poe and Riana Arima split the load for the Warriors, both scoring 18 points.