Konawaena stuns #23 Miramonte 63-62

Konawaena's Cherilyn Molina drove into the key with Miramonte's Clair Steele following during the first period of the Iolani Classic held on Thursday evening. Honolulu Star-Advertiser photo by Cindy Ellen Russell.
Konawaena’s Cherilyn Molina drove into the key with Miramonte’s Clair Steele following during the first period of the Iolani Classic held on Thursday evening. Honolulu Star-Advertiser photo by Cindy Ellen Russell.

Between all-state football photo-taking and two basketball tournaments, it’s been a lot of shifting around today. Thank God traffic was pretty smooth.

I’m also thankful that I got to see — and record — an instant classic. Konawaena’s 63-62 thriller over CIF powerhouse Miramonte might turn out to be the best game of the year. It had star power: Konawaena junior Chanelle Molina scored 12 of her 27 points in the first quarter, and she added six rebounds and seven dimes as the Wildcats did a mostly superb job of handling the Matadors’ tenacious, double-teaming pressure defense.

Miramonte’s splendid junior, Sabrina Ionescu, was spellbinding. The 6-foot guard poured in 39 points and hustled for 17 rebounds. She’s taller than all the Wildcats — Konawaena was a 5-8 and under team tonight — but her game is about shooting the 3 and slashing hard for tough buckets at the rim. She shot 14-for-27 from the field, including six treys. Three of them came during a 10-0 run that cut the lead to 61-59 with 29.8 seconds to play.

That brought Miramonte’s faithful fans a lot of hope, but the tired Wildcats clung to victory. The extraordinary chemistry of the Molina sisters — Chanelle, Celena Jane and Cherilyn — shone all night. It was no surprise when the freshman, Cherilyn, found Celena Jane open for a layup that sealed the win with 8 seconds to play.

It felt like Miramonte just needed another 30 seconds. It wasn’t to be for the highly successful program from Orinda, Calif.

It wasn’t that Konawaena got lucky. Coach Bobbie Awa’s team played tough man defense on the taller Matadors from start to finish. There may be no other team, boys or girls, that handles a press as well as the Wildcats. Talk about bounce passes and fundamental, beautiful passing. It was a clinic much of the night by the Wildcats in their press breaker.

>> Ionescu has several scholarship offers, but as a junior, she’s in no rush. She shows flashes of a very young Katie Smith, who I got to see play in the 1990s when Smith was a baller at Ohio State. The Buckeyes played in a tourney at Kona, coincidentally, showing the long-range form and toughness on the dribble that made her a terrific pro later. Ionescu shot 14-for-27 from the field and added six steals, five assists and three blocks, as well as six 3-pointers.

>> Chanelle Molina was efficient, and though the returning Star-Advertiser All-State player of the year the capable of scoring at just about any time, she is still as smart with the ball as ever. She didn’t force the ball once all night, using patience to lure defenders before dishing for layups. All the Wildcats did that. It was so scripted, yet so effective.

>> Celena Jane Molina had 19 points and eight rebounds, doing yeoman’s work defensively against the tall Matadors. Cherilyn had 10 points and six assists.

>> The Victor sisters, Ihi and Tori, didn’t play at all. Ihi sat out due to a concussion suffered last week, and Tori has an elbow injury. The Wildcats seemed to tire in the second half, but even running on fumes, they had enough left in the tank to oust a team that was 30-2 and ranked No. 23 in the nation by MaxPreps last season.

>> Keana Delos Santos had 15 points for Miramonte, but she looked like other sharpshooters (boys or girls) I’ve seen in the Classic over the years. She was 1-for-10 from the arc, though her shooting stroke looks excellent. All her shots were in rhythm, and I’ve seen shooters break out on the second day and finish tournaments strong. Sometimes, a long trip from the East (or West) Coast can do that on the first day of this tourney.

>> Konawaena’s three transfers from Lahainaluna didn’t play like they’re new additions. They “fit in well and played good defense,” Awa said. Aloha Salem nailed a smooth 3 from the corner in the first half, and though they weren’t scoring prolifically on this night, the balance Konawaena has with ballhandling, shooting and tough defense from these Maui-bred hoopsters is impressive.

Again, though, I can’t wait to see the game video. INSTANT CLASSIC.

‘Iolani Classic
Thursday’s scores

Riverdale Baptist (Md.) 70, Shenzen (China) 52
> R—Honesty Grayson 17, Lena Niang 13, Janice Ladson 11, Passion Scott 10. S—Jiana Li 20, Ligi Wei 11. Note: Riverdale 8-19 FT.
Konawaena 63, Miramonte (Calif.) 62
> K—Chanelle Molina 27, Celina Jane Molina 19, Cherilyn Molina 10. M—Sabrina Inoescu 39 (and 17 rebounds), Keana Delos Santos 15.
‘Iolani 67, Kalani 30
> I—Kristen Ahn 11, Camy Aguinaldo 11. K—Kaylie Espinas 11.
St. Mary’s 98, Roosevelt 57
> SM—Kat Tudor 15, Aquira DeCosta 15, Ariel Johnson 12. R—Keala Quinlan 15, Kaohi Kapiko 12, Destiny Holani 9.

Friday’s games
3:30 p.m. Consolation: Shenzen (China) vs. Miramonte (Calif.)
5 p.m. Kalani vs. Roosevelt
6:30 p.m. Riverdale Baptist vs. Konawaena
8 p.m. ‘Iolani vs. St. Mary’s (Calif.)



  1. coach Randy December 12, 2014 9:32 am

    I don’t get the comment that a team can be off from their shooting coming off a long trip from the East Coast when Miramonte is a California team. Huh??

  2. Paul Honda December 12, 2014 9:43 am

    Good point, my bad. Getting the mainland teams mixed up. Still a long trip.

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