The Wildcats were close late, but missed free throws proved costly as Lahainaluna pulled away for a 50-41 victory at the Konawaena Girls Basketball Tournament Friday night.
The Lady Luna twins Lindsey and Taylor Bates put on a three-point show, hitting six threes and finishing with a combined 21 points.
“Lahainaluna is very disciplined and each one of those players go out and play hard for their coach,” Konawaena head coach Bobbie Awa said after the loss.
The Wildcats went 7-17 from the free-throw line, which ultimately ended up being the difference.
“Free throws killed us. Got to make free throws,” Awa said. “We make our free throws it can be a different game. Those are momentum killers. We got killed in transition, too. They got a couple easy buckets and that really stopped our momentum after baskets “
Konawaena got off to a hot start, maintaining a lead until the 3:53 mark of the second quarter. Mercedes “Ihi” Victor — playing in her first game since injuring her elbow early in the preseason — provided the spark on offense, hitting her first four shots and finishing the opening quarter with nine points.
Sophomore star Chanelle Molina got off to an uncharacteristically slow start, missing her first five field goal attempts. Lahainaluna constantly double-teamed the primary ball handler for the Wildcats, making her work for every point.
“Our strategy was definitely to limit Chanelle’s points,” said Lahainaluna head coach Garrett Arima. “Instead of sitting back, we applied full-court pressure and tried to make it hard. Chanelle is a great player, but that kind of pressure will take a toll on anyone.”
Molina finished with 8 points, 4 rebounds and a pair of steals, while Victor contributed 16 points, 4 rebounds and a block.
The Wildcats made a run late in the fourth after a 3-pointer from Zoe Acdal brought the Wildcats within three points, igniting the home crowd.
With the gym as loud as it had been all tournament, Lindsey Bates hit a long 2-pointer and silenced the raucous crowd, effectively ending the Konawaena run.
“Those two are great shooters,” Awa said. “We had a nice lead and they started knocking them down.”
If the game was meant to be a measuring stick for the season, the Wildcats measure up quite well against some of the top competition in the state. However, coach Awa knows the Wildcats have a lot of work to do if they hope to bring home a sixth state title.
“Everybody has to pull their weight,” Awa said. “We have to play our roles. Girls don’t have to do more than they are capable of. We are still getting in shape and gaining confidence but I think we will be alright.”
Lahainaluna was very satisfied with the win.
“Anytime you can beat a Konawaena team it’s a plus,” Arima said. “Konawaena is always a top team in the state, so we are happy, but we also know there is a lot of basketball left to play.”
Konawaena vs. Lahainaluna was the main event Friday, but Honokaa and Hilo put on a show in the lead-in game.
The Vikings — who many have slated as the top contender to knock of Konawaena for the BIIF title — had their hands full with the Dragons Friday.
The teams traded blows for much of the first half, but Hilo held the lead at halftime 34-27.
Honokaa remained close mainly because of the effort of senior Chancis Fernandez. Fernandez had 16 of her team’s 27 points in the first half.
The Vikings grabbed hold of the game in the second half, limiting Honokaa to six third-quarter points and further building on the lead in the fourth quarter.
Fernandez finished as the leading scorer in the game with 20 points.
Hilo stuck with a balanced attack. Ten of the 11 Vikings on the roster registered at least two points, with Chailey Cabalis leading the way with 12.
In other tournament action:
Kamehameha defeated Hawaii Baptist Academy 40-38. Kamehameha was lead by Makamae Gabriel with 14. Jenne Brown paced HBA with 11.
Mid-Pacific Institute defeated HPA 51-37. Ka Makani held a slight lead at half, but Mid-Pac pulled away in the second half, outscoring HPA 34-17. HPA was led by Ula Brostek with 24.