The Lady Falcons of Kalani have been on smooth street this week, if it was paved with sandpaper, that is.
Coach Chi Mok and his team have endured some internal ripples, but like any family, they united as a single, potent force. The results showed on the hardwood on Saturday night as Kalani took an 11-6 lead on Punahou, lost the lead and battled back before losing 44-42 at the McKinley Black and Gold Classic.
Kandyce Woods was the engine in traffic for Kalani, battling Punahou’s 6-foot-4 freshman, Tama Fonoti. Woods scored eight of her 12 points in the first half, but she missed some time in the second half after landing on Fonoti’s foot and injuring an ankle.
Teammate Logan Luke (eight points) also battled in the paint, and freshman guard Alayna Akiona scored a team-high 10 points. With the deficit at two points in the final seconds, Daesha Viela rebounded a missed free throw by Punahou and went coast to coast, only to miss a tough layup at the buzzer.
Punahou freshman Melody Lum scored nine of her 11 points in the second half for the Buffanblu. Fonoti finished with 10 points despite foul trouble in the first half. Liana Heshiki, their long-range gunner, led with 12 points. It was a busy three days for Punahou, which played three games at the Black and Gold Classic, and three more at the Moanalua Peek Tournament.
Still, it was impressive bounce-back for Kalani, which lost to Maryknoll and Kamehameha earlier in the week.
“There was progress from day one to day three. Our goal was to get better each game. We didn’t win, but each day we got better, and after tonight, I think they’ll start believing,” Mok said. “We had issues off the court and had a long talk, and I think the leaders, the seniors, got recommitted. Once the younger ones saw the seniors recommit, then they followed. I think that was the big difference tonight. I’m proud of them tonight. They never gave up when we fell behind. We fought back and we fought back. All we can ask for is a chance to win.”
The Falcons weren’t in celebratory spirits after the loss, but their confidence level seemed much higher.
“It wasn’t a win-or-lose thing today for us,” Mok said. “We played so poorly on the first day against Maryknoll. I just wanted to see improvement from our Kamehameha game, so we took some steps. We moved up to Division I this year, so we might see (Punahou) again at states. We’ll see what happens with that. But the main thing is our team is starting to believe.”
Mok also credited one of the underclassmen, junior Heidi Kishaba, for being a bridge for the entire team.
“She’s going to show up to practice every single time and she’s ready to work. A lot of the other girls are feeding off her energy and her commitment,” Mok said. “She basically kept the team together during this little issue. I think we worked it out.”