Kaylie Espinas scored all 12 of her points in the first half and Kalani locked down defensively in the second half for a 38-33 win over McKinley on Monday night at McKinley Student Council Gymnasium.
Logan Luke and Heidi Kishiba added seven points each, and Alayna Akiona scored six key points, all in the second half, for the Lady Falcons. Kalani improved to 2-0 in the Oahu Interscholastic Association East (5-6 overall) with the scrappy win.
“It’s an ugly win, but we’ll take it,” Kalani coach Chi Mok said. “I don’t know if it’s the hangover from ‘Iolani (Classic), but we didn’t have any practice before this game. No excuses, though. McKinley played well. They’re not going to roll over and let you walk into their gym and win.”
Nicole Venzon led the Lady Tigers with nine points. Kloe Lum added seven points. McKinley dropped to 1-1 in league play (7-5 overall).
“We had a chance to win, but we battled,” Tigers coach Donald Kamai said. “Our players know they could’ve won. A team like Kalani, you can’t give them those creases.”
The Tigers attacked Kalani’s man-to-man defense effectively in the first half and took nine free throws, making four. It was a different scenario after halftime. Kalani limited McKinley to just 11 points and only two attempts at the charity stripe.
Kalani was 1-for-6 at the foul line in the first half, taking all those shots in the first quarter. In the second half, the Falcons ran a weave offense and attacked McKinley’s 2-3 zone. The Falcons were 4-for-8 from the line. Experience was an edge for Kalani, which basically ran out the final 2 minutes of the clock as the Tigers were too tired to foul more than twice.
“During our timeouts, they gathered themselves. They ran their sets and we got good looks,” Mok said. “In the first half, we were bombing and the shots weren’t falling, so we became a little more patient and attacked the basket.”
McKinley’s game plan almost worked. Kalani turned in some high-scoring performances during preseason: 72 against Molokai, 88 on Pearl City, 58 against Nanakuli, 59 versus Kaimuki.
“We wanted to shorten the game,” Kamai said. “But eventually, we had some mental breakdowns. It’s a good lesson. The whole preseason, we’ve had good lessons.”
McKinley’s Dezlyn Naval sat a substantial amount of time on the bench due to foul trouble
“She’s our best presence inside defensively and offensively,” Kamai said.
Her absence made it tough for the smallish Tigers to contain Kalani center Kandyce Woods, who dominated the glass at times.
Kalani will visit Farrington on Wednesday. McKinley will visit Kalaheo.
In the JV game, Remi Tsunoda scored 10 points to lead Kalani over McKinley 43-16. Tiare Quijano added eight points and Chelsea Galdones added seven. Lauren Lacar and Toa Stark-Aoelua led the Tigers with four points apiece.