Tani Almont-Done is a communicator.
A heck of a communicator. It was that talent that helped Radford capture an OIA Division II girls basketball championship in 2011. She stepped down after that season, then emerged a few seasons later at nearby Moanalua.
The effect has been about connection. In Delylah Sanerivi, a volleyball/basketball standout, she has a poised, tough and consistent producer in the paint. The 5-foot-10 senior had 21 points and 16 rebounds in her biggest game to date, leading Moanalua in a 59-57 overtime win over Kahuku on Monday night.
Almont-Done made it specifically clear at halftime, while Na Menehune trailed 23-11 in a televised OIA D-I semifinal battle at McKinley, that time and opportunity were slipping away.
“We came out flat and a little scared. I told them I have an OIA championship. This is your moment. I’m just along for the ride. These ladies turned it around,” Almont-Done said.
They sure did. Sanerivi, who had a severely limited number of touches and faced double- and triple-teams in the paint during the first half, went strong to the bucket on four consecutive possessions to begin the second half. That sparked a 7-2 run, which became a 23-12 run, and that stretched into an astounding 31-10 run. Point guard Kelcie Leong had seven of her nine points in the final quarter.
“They were outhustling us in the first half,” Sanerivi said. “I guess we had a long day at school. It’s the longest one of the week. We had six periods, but at the same time we have to fight through.”
Down 42-35, Kahuku didn’t fade. Sisila Kaufusi (21 points, 14 boards) was as quick as she was in the opening minutes. After an extremely physical battle — officials let plenty of contact go both ways, which is fair enough — Kaufusi took advantage of some suddenly surprising touch fouls down the stretch.
In the end, the youth brigade of Kahuku nearly pulled it off. With a lineup almost entirely of underclassmen, they nearly reached the OIA final. Tiueti Tonga, a sparkplug guard, was everywhere with 11 points and eight rebounds in the first half. She finished with 16 and 11, and freshman Leiah Naeata added 11 points.
Tonga stole the show early on. But then junior Raven Rosa-Lasco played for keeps after a relatively quiet first half (three points).
“The first time, the Kaufusi girl capped me three times,” she said of a matchup two weeks ago. “Coach said not to be a reindeer in headlights.”
Drive after drive, Rosa-Lasco beat defenders to the rack. After going 0-for-4 from the field and 2-for-6 at the foul line in the first half, the junior shot 4-for-4 from the field and 6-for-8 from the line after halftime. She added five rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block. She finished with 16 points.
And for all the individual highlights, it came down to those final 4 minutes. This is what Kahuku did offensively in overtime:
>> 4-for-4 field-goal shooting
>> No turnovers
>> Nine points in 4 minutes
That’s good enough to win most OT games.
Moanalua? Just as good.
>> 4-for-6 FGA
>> 2-for-2 FTA
>> A 4-3 edge on the boards
>> No turnovers
The one twist: a “No-no-no, yes!” corner 3 by Kylie Casinas that opened Moanalua’s lead to 57-53 in overtime. This came as Kaufusi realized any contact in the paint was now followed by a whistle, but it was too big a lead, even for Kahuku, to overcome. The deciding play, a drive-and-dish pass from Leong to Sanerivi — Leong humble-bragged last week about how good their connection is — was the go-ahead layup that broke a 57-all tie with 15 seconds left in OT.
It was, to no surprise, a great battle. Not a great game — the 14 combined turnovers in the fourth quarter by the two teams showed some nerves — but it was one of the most dramatic duels of the season.