Hoopbook: Cardiac Cougars stun Radford in OT for state berth

Kaiser's Ivane Aholelei (22) chased down a loose ball against Kalani in a game earlier this season. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell/Star-Advertiser.

The ups and downs had the Kaiser Cougars singing the blues at times.

On Thursday night, a stunning overtime playoff victory had the Cardiac Cougars singing in triumph all the way back to East Oahu.

Kaiser is in the state tournament thanks to two crucial wins in the Oahu Interscholastic Association Division I girls basketball playoffs. On Wednesday, the Lady Cougars overcame Nanakuli 56-40. One day later, Kaiser went to Radford, which finished second in the OIA West, and won in overtime, 57-48.

Kaiser (15-9) is now in the semifinals, and has earned a berth in the state tourney.

“It was fun. We had no choice, we had to stand together and stick with it,” Kaiser coach Brianna Lagat-Ramos said on Friday.

Senior guard Trinidee Kahunahana and junior center Tanya Blakeney scored 17 points each, and senior forward Stephanie Cannon tallied 13 points.

“Stephanie and Taeya really stepped up. Their communication has really improved, finding each other more in the post,” Lagat-Ramos said. “On the defensive end, we made some adjustments. Trini and Jodie (Otani) stepped up. We put our freshman (Dacee Tsue) on their main ballhandler. That was a tough game for Dacee, going to varsity straight from middle school. Emotionally, it’s tough and we talked to her about keeping her chin up and keep doing what she’s been doing all season.”

The Cougars led by 15 points, lost the lead, and charged ahead for good in the extra stanza. The Cougars got help up and down the roster. Even Ivana Aholelei, who has an injured ankle, was called on late in the game to help break Radford’s fullcourt press.

“We’ve been working on situations all week long. It shouldn’t came as a surprise and we talked to them about that,” Lagat-Ramos said. “There was a sigh of relief and they took it from there. We needed leaders on the floors, and it ended up all five of them taking charge and having each other’s backs. And everyone on the bench helped a lot.”

Playing in Radford’s gym made the challenge as difficult as any road game Kaiser had played.

“It was a tough crowd, they could barely hear me. They were very exposed and we had to calm down and refocus. We told them, we’ve done this before,” Lagat-Ramos added.

They were well aware of the reward at hand. Radford is now in elimination-game mode, while Kaiser is in the big dance.

“They were so stoked,” said Lagat-Ramos, who is feeling the effects of a cold. “The kids had us singing karaoke in the bus and I’m the one Filipino that did not get the singing genes. They love to sing a lot in the bus. We had a smaller bus so there was no escaping the music.”

With no classes on Friday, the Cougars had a light practice in the morning. They’re taking aim at Kahuku, which was unbeaten in OIA East play, including a 40-33 win at Kaiser two weeks ago. The semifinal round will be on Tuesday, again at Radford.

“We just made adjustments for Tuesday. Tomorrow (Saturday), we’ll get shots up. Their bodies are tired. They have all Saturday and Sunday off. We’ll come back on Monday,” Lagat-Ramos said. “Kahuku — it’ll be fun. We want it more than we wanted it the first time. The girls know they could’ve got that game. It was small mistakes that cost us in the end.”

Final 4
Thursday’s OIA D-I quarterfinal results leaves the bracket with three East teams and just one from the West, Mililani. The Lady Trojans outlasted Moanalua 63-51, Kahuku stifled Kapolei 48-38 and Kalani outraced Leilehua 67-47.

At Radford

Tuesday, Jan. 22
>> Semifinal: Kahuku vs. Kaiser, 5 p.m.
>> Semifinal: Kalani vs. Mililani, 7 p.m.
>> Kapolei @ Radford, 6 p.m. (winner claims state berth)
>> Moanalua @ Leilehua, 6 p.m. (winner claims state berth)

The D-I championship, third- and fifth-place games will be on Thursday. The final will be played at Radford. The other games will be at the site of the higher-seeds.

ILH runner-up tilt
Tonight, at 6 p.m., Kamehameha visits Maryknoll in a tiebreaker game for second place in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu. There are big benefits to a win here.

>> The winner will earn one of two first-round byes in the upcoming playoffs
>> In the event that regular-season winner ‘Iolani also wins the playoff tournament, the next state berth will be determined by the order of finish in regular season and playoff tourney. That could lead to extra playoff games after the playoff tourney.

In any event, tonight’s game is about seeding and positioning, and in a league that has four Top 10 teams and just two state berths, every edge is important.

Kryptonite Owls
For a second time in ILH boys play, Mid-Pacific edged No. 8 Kamehameha. On Thursday, the unranked Owls prevailed 45-44. It was a rollicking night overall in the ILH, where No. 2 Punahou escaped with a 65-60 overtime win over No. 6 Saint Louis and No. 3 ‘Iolani pulled out a 67-58 victory over No. 10 St. Francis.

In all, seven teams from the ILH, including D-II Damien, are in the Star-Advertiser Top 10. In the standings, the gap between the top (Maryknoll, Punahou, ‘Iolani) is widening with the rest of the pack. With three state berths available for ILH D-I teams, the playoff tournament may be the most unpredictable ever.

Eagles have landed
Hawaii Baptist got 16 points from Kyley Nakagawa and 15 points from Alexis Dang to overcome Hanalani 50-42 on Thursday for the ILH D-II girls title.

Keila Tsutsui led the Royals with 14 points.

HBA, Hanalani and University have already sealed three of the league’s four state-tournament berths. The remaining available berth will be settled in the ILH D-II playoff tournament, which begins next Thursday.


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