Wind back the clock two years and change.
‘Iolani has a shot at the state tourney, but needs a win over Kamehameha at Kekuhaupio Gymnasium. But injuries and illness wreck the roster. One player is unable to suit up because of pilot lessons. Yes, airplane fly-in-the-sky-for-real lessons.
Taylor Wu steps up with 18 points, a magnificent performance by the sophomore, but Kamehameha hangs on for a close win and earns the state berth. ‘Iolani’s season is over.
Wind the tape back more. Back in the day, the clock and the final horn at Blaisdell Arena were not in sync.
In fact, that split-second difference was cause for quite a few memorable, controversial moments as Chaminade knocked off a few Top 25 opponents on Ward Avenue. In those years, Keith Whitney was the clutch shooter. The clock may or may not have expired with the ball still in his shooting hand, but officials explained that the game did not end until the horn sounded.
Luck? Skill? 1970s technology? Clutch gene? Whitney had it all, and the machinery of another generation was absolutely not in his control. He was simply clutch.
Kalina Obrey was up to the challenge. The Kamehameha senior’s 29-foot rainbow 3-pointer seemingly tied the game with ‘Iolani at 52 on Saturday night as time expired, sending Warrior fans — and her teammates and coaches — into a frenzy. The state championship game was going into overtime. The sight of the team in navy blue celebrating was surreal, however, because the ‘Iolani Raiders had stormed the court to celebrate a victory that they believe they had in hand.
If we have 1980s, Blaisdell Arena technology, Obrey’s shot possibly stands and this epic final goes into overtime.
Instead, in 2019, the most dramatic finish in girls basketball state tournament history took several minutes to solve. After further review, Obrey’s amazing shot did not count, and ‘Iolani claimed a 52-49 win in the final of the Snapple/HHSAA Girls Basketball State Championships at the Stan Sheriff Center. The win snaps a spell of 23 seasons since ‘Iolani’s last crown, when then-coach, the late Bernie Ching, guided the Raiders to back-to-back state championships.
‘Iolani’s title run, a 23-6 season, a No. 1 ranking from the first week that the Raiders never relinquished, was extremely hard earned. The same is true of Kamehameha, which had a stellar week in the state tourney and had many close watchers convinced that tonight would be their night.
This was 1A and 1B, if ever. Kamehameha (18-7) outrebounded ‘Iolani 36-32 and limited the Raiders to 31 percent field-goal shooting (16-for-51), but committed 16 turnovers. ‘Iolani had just eight giveaways, and in a one-possession game decided on a sliver of a second on the clock, the eight-turnover difference was crucial.
The first huge clutch plays: Wu’s back-to-back, NBA-range 3-point shots turned the momentum around just when Kamehameha seemed to have the code cracked. Wu’s 25-footer brought the Raiders within 40-39 with 3:10 remaining.
“She’s off the whole tournament, then she makes these big shots,” ‘Iolani coach Dean Young said.
From 3-point range, Wu was 1-for-6 in the quarterfinal against Radford and 0-for-7 against Konawaena in the semifinal. Tonight, she was 0-for-4 from deep — a total of 1-for-17 — before dropping those two huge bombs.
Then Kamehameha threw away the inbounds pass, and Wu then promptly banked in the next 25-footer to give the Raiders the lead.
They never trailed again.
“On my (bank) shot, that play was for me,” said Wu, who finished with a team-high 19 points. “I knew I had to be confident. I had confidence in my shot the whole time. I was like, ‘OK, this is going in. This is going in.’ Right when I released it, I was like, that’s so much power. I was hoping for a bank. So I got it.”
Wu and Alexis Huntimer sank the next four free-throw tries for ‘Iolani, which led 46-42 with 1:23 remaining.
Obrey, who finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds and three assists, did what she could. She sank two foul shots, but Wu hit two more of her own to give ‘Iolani a 48-44 lead with 52.3 seconds left.
After Malie Marfil splashed a clutch wing 3, the Warriors were within one point with 37.5 seconds to go.
Wu then connected on her final two free throws for a 50-47 lead with 37.3 ticks left. But a moment later, she fouled Obrey in the paint on a double-team, her fifth personal foul.
“I thought that was my fourth,” Wu said. “But I had confidence in my team.”
Obrey scored on the play and had a chance to tie the game, but her free throw was short and Lily Lefotu Wahinekapu rebounded. She hit two free throws for a 52-49 lead with 19.5 seconds left.
The rest was now insanely nerve-wracking sports opera at its finest, at least for the coaches and players involved. Haley Masaki’s 3 is short. Marfil hustles for the rebound, dribbles to the corner and passes to the deep wing. Obrey is pure clutch at the horn. Was Obrey’s shot really too late?
>> There was a bit of confusion as both teams celebrated the second that time ran out. After conferring, officials went across the court to check the replay.
>> Questions about whether high school game plays can be reviewed were answered by one administrator. The HHSAA and national federation permit replay review where it is available, and with the game being broadcast live statewide, the option was there.
>> At first, one official said, “It’s good” to another official. But with more review, more slow-motion using different camera angles, including one that had a sight line of the shooter and the red light indicating time expiration, the officials had their answer.
It was still a minute or two more before the restless crowd at Stan Sheriff Center knew the result. As officials conferred with Young and Kamehameha coach Pua Straight near the scorer’s table, Young heard the ruling and raced to his bench in celebration. Raider nation joined the celebration as players piled onto the court in front of their bench.
One observer near the scorer’s table said there appeared to be roughly a half-second between the light and the actual sound of the official horn in the arena. If true, that might make it somewhat similar to the old clock and horn at Blaisdell.
“I heard the sound after (Obrey) took the shot,” the observer said.
Reviewing the replay, though, officials relied on the red light, not sound, for finality.
Obrey wasn’t sure, either.
“I knew I could tie the game. I couldn’t tell (about the clock). I was focused on the basket,” she said.
The ‘Iolani bench emptied onto the court, certain that the red light went off before her shot.
“I think I was the first one on the court,” Wu said. “At first, when everyone was going crazy, I told my coaches, you have to look at replay. The clock hit zero. They said, ‘If this goes to overtime, we need to not foul and handle the ball good.’ ”
In what is arguably the most thrilling state final in history, it came down to free throws. ‘Iolani was 16-for-22 at the line, including 11-for-14 in the final quarter. Kamehameha finished 21-for-28, an excellent 75 percent. Obrey was 15-for-18 (83 percent).
If Wahinekapu had not made both of her final free throws, the entire strategy for Kamehameha would have changed. Between Obrey and rebounding machine Noelle Sua-Godinet, getting a bucket in the paint, or at least two free throws, was a strong possibility.
“I can’t believe we did that. I’m very proud of my teammates and our fans that showed up today,” said Wahinekapu, who guarded Marfil during the final play. “Without them, it wouldn’t be possible, so thank you so much.”
The arena was booming with enthused Kamehameha fans, clad in blue, all game long. It seemed there was a small gathering of Raider fans on hand, with a majority of students attending the ‘Iolani boys soccer team’s state final with Punahou at Waipio Peninsula Soccer Stadium.
Young was emotionally spent after the program’s first state title in 23 years.
“What a battle. My heart goes out to Kamehameha. They fought us to the very, very end,” Young said. “It was incredible.”
Technology cleared the confusion for ‘Iolani. But if this game had been played in another era, the referees may have counted the 3. The game resumes in overtime with Wu on the bench, disqualified with five fouls.
Then again, in another era, there is no 3-point shot. It became part of high school basketball in 1986. The what-ifs will linger on about the 2019 girls basketball state championship. In reality, Kamehameha is almost as much a champion as ‘Iolani.
The koa trophy will have a new home in the trophy case at Father Bray Athletic Complex. This game will have a life of its own for eternity. Somewhere above, Bernie Ching, a Kamehameha graduate, is bouncing in celebration. Warrior fans will never forget this day when their team was far, far from typical runner-up status. Splitting hairs never got so real.
HHSAA D-I State Tournament
|1||Feb. 4||Konawaena vs. Leilehua||Kona, 61-41||Konawaena|
|2||Feb. 4||Maui vs. Kaiser||Maui, 55-44||Maui|
|3||Feb. 4||Radford vs. Kalani||Kaln, 70-43||Kalani|
|4||Feb. 4||Kamehameha vs. Mililani||KSK, 41-17||Kamehameha|
|5||Feb. 7||(1) 'Iolani vs. Maui||Iol, 67-32||Moanalua|
|6||Feb. 7||(4) Kahuku vs. Konawaena||Kona, 46-42||Moanalua|
|7||Feb. 7||(2) Waiakea vs. Kalani||Kaln, 73-57||McKinley|
|8||Feb. 7||(3) Lahainaluna vs. Kamehameha||KSK, 47-30||McKinley|
|9*||Feb. 8||Maui vs. Kahuku||Kah, 60-19||Stan Sheriff Center|
|10*||Feb. 8||Waiakea vs. Lahainaluna||Waik, 60-54||Stan Sheriff Center|
|11||Feb. 8||Kalani vs. Kamehameha||KSK, 62-49||Stan Sheriff Center|
|12||Feb. 8||'Iolani vs. Konawaena||Iol, 43-22||Stan Sheriff Center|
|13*||Feb. 9||Kahuku vs. Waiakea||Waik, 56-53||Stan Sheriff Center|
|14*||Feb. 9||Kalani vs. Konawaena||Kona, 52-44||Stan Sheriff Center|
|15||Feb. 9||Kamehameha vs. 'Iolani||Iol, 52-49||Stan Sheriff Center|
|* — consolation|