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Youth basketball: Stingrays impress at Oregon tournament


Basketball on the Big Island knows little offseason, and several teams have made the trip to the mainland to compete in a circuit of notable summer tournaments.

Team Stingray — based in Kealakekua and made up of players from West Hawaii — had a solid showing at the End of the Oregon Trail tournament July 5-8, making a deep run to the overall championship game.

Coached by Konawaena’s Bobbie Awa, the squad went 5-0 in the 32-team Red Bracket, beating Washington-based Tree of Hope in the final game of bracket play.

Chanelle Molina led the Stingrays with 23 points, four rebounds and five steals. Celena Molina added 10 points and a team-high eight rebounds, while Mercedes “Ihi” Victor contributed eight points and two steals.

Chanelle Molina, the reigning Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division I Player of the Year and incoming Konawaena junior, was selected as the bracket MVP. The Stingrays also placed the most players on the All-Tournament team, with Celena and Cherilyn Molina and Victor.

Winning the bracket allowed the Stingrays to move on to the American Division Final Four, which matched up the four bracket winners to decide an overall champion.

The Stingrays defeated the Wiggins Waves 57-29 to advance to the overall championship game behind a well-rounded performance from Chanelle Molina. The Konawaena standout knocked in 14 points and racked up seven rebounds, seven assists and three steals. Victor and Celena Molina combined for 20 points.

“We played pretty stifling defense on them and ran the floor really well,” Awa said. “They never got any wide-open looks. We recovered well in transition and made them take tough shots.”

The Stingrays faced off against the Stockton Royals in the championship game but could not overcome a severe height disadvantage, falling 58-50.

“It was a close game, but we were outmatched on the glass,” Awa said. “They got a ton of second chance opportunities. I think we gave them the best game of the tournament though.”

Team Stingray was the only Big Island team among four Hawaii teams in the tournament.

Almost half of the team is made up of the Molina sisters. Chanelle and Celena Molina helped Konawaena to an 11th BIIF title in 13 years last season, while Cherilyn will be a freshman at Konawaena.

Victor, an incoming junior and All-BIIF selection with Konawaena, Mikaya Tablit, an incoming Wildcat freshman, and HPA’s Anna Juan and multisport star Gabrielle Ewing, and Kohala’s Tezrah Antonio make up the remainder of the squad.

“I’m proud of the way the girls played,” Awa said. “Especially the younger girls. It opens their eyes. It’s a different ball game from playing in Hawaii. The style of play and the way the officials call things are much different. By the end of the game the girls are bruised up and sore, but they gut through it. There are not a ton of fouls, so they have to step up the aggressiveness and play as tough as the other teams.”

As an NCAA-sanctioned event, a 30-second shot clock was used in tournament.

“The shot clock is great,” Awa said. “It makes the game a lot faster and if you fall behind you can come back. There is no stalling.”

The tournament is known as one of the premier events on the summer recruiting circuit. This year, the event hosted its largest field in history, with 258 all-star teams from 13 states and British Columbia.

“For scouts to see your games, you have got to win, unless you have someone real special,” Awa said. “The first game we had one scout watching, but as we won, more and more scouts showed up.

“It is a good opportunity for all these girls to play with the pressure of playing in front of scouts. Scouts are all over the place. It’s important for them to learn to stay focused and play their game.”

Seattle tournament

The Stingrays are currently competing in the 47-team Elite Division of the 17th annual Midsummer Night Madness tournament in Seattle, Wash. Fellow Big Island squad Keaukaha — based in Papaikou, with players mostly from East Hawaii — are competing in the 68-team All-Star division.

In the first game of the tournament Thursday, the Stingrays beat the Columbia Reign. Victor contributed 15 points and Chanelle Molina knocked in 14.

Keaukaha defeated the LaSalle Falcons in their opening game and moved to 2-0 in the tournament with a win against Washington’s 425 later in the day.

The Stingrays and Keaukaha have multiple games Friday; the tournament continues through Sunday.