‘Iolani’s 60-48 win over Kamehameha tonight means the Raiders have their first Interscholastic League of Honolulu girls basketball championship since 2012.
In the six years since that crown, Kamehameha (’13), Punahou (’14) and Maryknoll (’15-’18) ruled the throne. In ’12, the Raiders reached the state final after defeating Mililani and Lahainaluna, but lost to Konawaena 56-45 for the title.
Since then, the Raiders reached the big dance in ’13, losing to Konawaena in the semifinals, then went five seasons without a state appearance. Last year, the Raiders were runners-up in the ILH, rolled over Kahuku in the opening round of states, then fell to Lahainaluna 38-36 in the quarterfinals.
That loss to the mighty Lunas served as fuel in the offseason, says Lily Wahinekapu. The sophomore led ‘Iolani (20-6 overall) with 17 points and seven rebounds tonight, but she and senior Taylor Wu (11 points) sat with foul trouble for significant lengths of time. It’s almost routine for the No. 1-ranked team in the state, which played without Wu (college trip) early in preseason, then continued to progress while Wahinekapu healed up from an ankle injury.
“I believe in my team that they could do it themselves and fill that spot for me,” Wahinekapu said.
While she recuperated, Kamehameha came to Father Bray Athletic Complex on Dec. 7 and stunned the Raiders 49-45, ending what was then a 10-game win streak by ‘Iolani to start the season.
“That loss to (Kamehameha) motivated us. Our coaches say it’s hard to get to No. 1, but it’s harder to stay the No. 1 seed,” Wahinekapu said.
The Raiders wrapped up the ILH season with a balanced attack, fullcourt pressure, a blazing-fast transition offense and clutch plays from key reserves like Kawai Kahalehoe. The senior rained in two huge 3-pointers during a 17-3 run in the second quarter. That proved to be the difference in an otherwise tight battle.
“Our coaches did a good job emphasizing the personnel for Kamehameha. We executed very well and kept our composure,” said Wahinekapu, who is a niece of former Kalaheo standout Sharon Wahinekapu.
Alexsandra Huntimer had a consistently effective performance while leading ‘Iolani’s defensive coverage of Kamehameha standout Kalina Obrey, who finished with 16 points and seven rebounds. Huntimer had 12 points, four rebounds, three steals and two assists, and she shot 7-for-8 from the free-throw line in the final quarter.
“Alexsandra is invaluable,” ‘Iolani coach Dean Young said. “This time, they understood a little bit better how much we really need to help because we cannot guard Kalina one on one. She’s strong, she’s quick, she spins, so we have to have two, three girls ready to help.”
The Raiders sealed the win by shooting 14-for-17 in the final quarter. For the game, they were 22-for-26 (83 percent).
Kamehameha grabbed 14 offensive rebounds and managed to limit the dangerous Wu below her scoring average. Executing against ‘Iolani’s fullcourt and halfcourt defenses just wasn’t as simple this time around. ‘Iolani sophomore Alexis Huntimer, Alexsandra’s twin, roamed everywhere and finished with six assists, five rebounds and three steals to go with five points.
“Hats off to ‘Iolani. They played real well and executed against any defense we were in,” Kamehameha coach Pua Straight said. “The one thing lacking for us a little was our offensive execution. We didn’t have a lot of turnovers, but it was the timing of them.”
While Wu was ailing with an illness tonight, several Kamehameha players played through flu symptoms.
“That’s not why we lost,” Straight said. “They (‘Iolani) just played well and we didn’t execute near as well as we needed to.”
While ‘Iolani became a better team after the December home loss to Kamehameha, the Warriors have nine days to prepare for their opening-round game at the state tourney.
“I’m excited to see what the schedule looks like for us,” Straight added. “The biggest thing in getting confidence is getting prepared for the teams you play. There’s still a lot of basketball ahead. In a loss or a win, it doesn’t matter when you prepare for the state tourney.”
It has been five years since an ILH team won the state title — Punahou defeated Lahainaluna in the ’14 final. It’s even more rare for an ILH runner-up to win the state title in girls basketball, but in a year when four-time defending champion Konawaena enters as an unseeded team — the Wildcats lost to Waiakea in Saturday’s BIIF final — anything could happen.
“It’s possible,” Straight said. “We’ve just got to stay together and the preparation begins now.”
She really meant now. There won’t be any putting the preparation off until Sunday.
“No. I’m studying game video tonight,” Straight said.
A look at ILH teams in the state championships since ’12. First team listed is ILH champion.
2018 – Maryknoll, state runner-up. ‘Iolani (ILH runner-up) def. Kahuku, lost to Lahainaluna (quarterfinals).
2017 – Maryknoll, state runner-up.. Kamehameha def. Kahuku and Farrington, lost to Konawaena (semifinals).
2016 – Maryknoll, state runner-up.. Punahou def. Farrington, lost to Koanwaena (quarterfinals).
2015 – Maryknoll lost in semis. Punahou def. Kailua, lost to Konawaena (quarterfinals).
2014 – Punahou, state champion, def. Lahainaluna in final. Maryknoll lost at Lahainaluna (quarterfinals).
2013 – Kamehameha, state runner-up. ‘Iolani def. Kaimuki and Lahainaluna, lost to Lahainaluna (semifinals).
2012 – ‘Iolani, state runner-up, def. Mililani and Lahainaluna, lost to Konawaena in final. Kamehameha lost to Kamehameha-Hawaii in the opening round.
Kamehameha (15-6) 11 10 15 12 — 48
‘Iolani (20-6) 12 17 12 19 — 60
Kamehameha: Malie Marfil 7, Esther Naum 2, Haley Masaki 5, Camille Feary 11, Alize Pratt 0, Noelle Sua-Godinet 5, Kalina Obrey 16, Kaylee-Brooke Manuel 2.
‘Iolani: Alexis Huntimer 5, Taylor Wu 11, Kyra Tanabe 2, Jovi Lefotu 4, Lily Wahinekapu 17, Kylie Yung 3, Kawai Kahalehoe 6, Alexsandra Huntimer 12.
3-point goals: Kamehameha 1 (Feary), ‘Iolani 6 (Kahalehoe 2, Alexis Huntimer, Wu, Wahinekapu, Yung).