A tale of two 3’s for Taylor Wu, Kalina Obrey in wild state final

The 'Iolani Raiders reacted as a buzzer shot made by Kamehameha's Kalina Obrey was counted at the buzzer. A few minutes later, Obrey's shot was discounted and the Raiders won the HHSAA championship, 52-49. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell/Star-Advertiser

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.

Kamehameha reacted after forward Kalina Obrey made a shot at the buzzer to seemingly tie the game at 52. / Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell, Star-Advertiser

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.”

The Warriors wept after officials ruled that Kalina Obrey’s tying shot came after the buzzer. / Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell, Star-Advertiser

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

Match #DateMatchupTime/ScoresSite
1Feb. 4Konawaena vs. LeilehuaKona, 61-41Konawaena
2Feb. 4Maui vs. KaiserMaui, 55-44Maui
3Feb. 4Radford vs. KalaniKaln, 70-43Kalani
4Feb. 4Kamehameha vs. MililaniKSK, 41-17Kamehameha
5Feb. 7(1) 'Iolani vs. MauiIol, 67-32Moanalua
6Feb. 7(4) Kahuku vs. KonawaenaKona, 46-42Moanalua
7Feb. 7(2) Waiakea vs. KalaniKaln, 73-57McKinley
8Feb. 7(3) Lahainaluna vs. KamehamehaKSK, 47-30McKinley
9*Feb. 8Maui vs. KahukuKah, 60-19Stan Sheriff Center
10*Feb. 8Waiakea vs. LahainalunaWaik, 60-54Stan Sheriff Center
11Feb. 8Kalani vs. KamehamehaKSK, 62-49Stan Sheriff Center
12Feb. 8'Iolani vs. KonawaenaIol, 43-22Stan Sheriff Center
13*Feb. 9Kahuku vs. WaiakeaWaik, 56-53Stan Sheriff Center
14*Feb. 9Kalani vs. KonawaenaKona, 52-44Stan Sheriff Center
15Feb. 9Kamehameha vs. 'IolaniIol, 52-49Stan Sheriff Center
* — consolation


  1. Just another spectator February 10, 2019 4:58 am

    Tough break for Kamehameha. But when you saw the replay on tv, Obrey clearly still has the ball when the nearby scoreboard said zero and the red light came on. Those are the official time pieces. Congrats to Iolani. They played spectacular ball all year and deserved the #1 ranking and title.

  2. BOO to the HHSAA February 10, 2019 10:58 am

    Great Championship Game. BUT, I’m sick and tired of the HHSAA continuously putting non-deserving teams into the State Tournament. OIA went 3-8, which AGAIN and AGAIN is not surprising, Kalani had 2 wins, Kahuku had 1. Leilehua, Radford, Mililani, Kaiser were 1 and done, and the score was not even close.

  3. M.T. February 10, 2019 1:51 pm

    This is where it gets interesting. Normally, both the scoreboard and buzzer are in sync. The light went off with the ball still in Obrey’s hands. However, the buzzer sounded when the ball was in the air.

    Could it be that regular maintenance hasn’t been done at the Stan in a while? Remember, most high school gyms do not have the lights around the backboard.

    So in the rules it does say based on scoreboard/buzzer. There is a chance that it as inaccurate since they were not in sync.

    Given that it wasn’t in sync, maybe the buzzer and lights off-set each other and they rely on the call on the court?

    I think based on this, it should have went to OT.

  4. Love the Game February 10, 2019 2:20 pm

    BOO to the HHSAA, what’s your point? Are you saying OTHER teams should have been there? The tournament is set up this way and these teams EARNED their spots. Is it possible that you’re from the ILH angle? Kalani and Kahuku, as far as I saw, and if you managed to watch any of their games, had a chance. I think it was the coaching or lack of coaching. Even the best of teams have bad games and the reality of these types of tournaments is that it eliminates great teams with any given loss. I was able to watch several match-ups and many of these OIA teams did well against ILH and outerisland teams. We can speculate all day, but it’s over for 2018-2019 and time to move on! It was a good season and these girls (all participants) deserve a standing ovation.

    P.S. Do I think Maryknoll deserves to be in there? Yes. Do I think they should add one from ILH and take one away from OIA? Yes.

    Do I have a child in the OIA? Yes, and she loves the game! OIA teams have FULL benches, while ILH teams have DEEP ones. I just don’t have the $ to put her on one of those DEEP benches.

  5. Basketball Fanao February 10, 2019 2:21 pm

    It doesn’t matter on the sound it’s clock and red light on the board that counts in the rule books it clearly states NFHS rule if there is a winning 2 shot or 3 point shot that ends a game Officials can go to the replay monitors if provided ONLY IN CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES So it was the correct call

  6. ??? February 10, 2019 3:02 pm

    @BOO to the HHSAA
    You must be a Marynoll supporter!

    Great game, good call by referees.

  7. BOO to the HHSAA February 10, 2019 9:52 pm

    My point is that 6 teams from the OIA this year is TOO MUCH. 2 possibly 3 from the OIA deserve to be in the tournament. That would have allowed another team from the B.I. (Hilo) and 2 more from the ILH (Maryknoll and Punahou) to play. Much more competition and truly a State Tournament. Anyway, happy the girls received their participation tournament shirts.

  8. Chicken Grease February 11, 2019 2:15 am

    Stop playing these games so close (a la St. Louis Rams and New Orleans Saints, too!) and you won’t HAVE to worry about stuff like this.

    Score it up, athletes and teams. Stop making “business decisions.” You’re not wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase.

  9. ILH February 11, 2019 8:40 am

    Yes. Some teams had no business in the tournament.
    Yes. There should have been more ILH teams.
    No. They didnt have a bad game, they just got beat.

    P.S. Financial aid could help.

  10. Energizerbunny February 11, 2019 9:24 am

    I think it’s ironic that they used technology to review the last shot when the technology of tv, shot clocks, and buzzers were not working efficiently and caused the problem.

  11. Burgla February 11, 2019 1:02 pm

    I agree with #4, about the coaching or lack of. Most of these ” coaches” would have been fired if the people in charge cared. The girls just wanna play and learn; but poor coaching fails them and the school. OIA and ILH.

  12. Scoreboard February 11, 2019 1:19 pm

    Heard from people on the press row that the official game clock and light behind the backboard wasn’t in sync.

  13. High in the bleachers February 11, 2019 3:58 pm

    Did someone comment about poor coaching? Consider the coaching at schools that play below .500. In those schools the administrators are the ones who don’t care. Better yet would be the schools that only win a handful or less games in an entire season. Principals’ and ADs’ are not doing their job and are cheating the kids. Negligent is the word.

  14. Fan February 14, 2019 10:49 pm

    I wish we could’ve seen the 2 best teams in the state battle it out for 4 more minutes to decide the game.

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