Kalani’s 73-57 win over Waiakea on Thursday night wasn’t shocking, but the domination the Lady Falcons demonstrated was.
Kalani (21-6) advanced to the semifinal round of the Snapple/HHSAA Girls Basketball State Championships and will meet Kamehameha at Stan Sheriff Center in a showdown between the runners-up from the OIA and ILH, respectively.
Waiakea, the BIIF champion, fell behind 9-2 and was never in the game despite a lot of hustle and effort. The Warriors didn’t utilize their tough fullcourt press until the fourth quarter, down as many as 23 points.
“We were waiting for them to press,” said Kalani senior Kamalu Kamakawiwo‘ole, who finished with 17 points, 18 rebounds and four blocks.
Kalani, the run-and-gun outfit that fell to Kahuku in the OIA final, relied on old-fashioned halfcourt man-to-man defense on this night. Waiakea scored 34 points in the final quarter, but until then, the Warriors shot just 9-for-47 from the field — 19 percent. With Kamakawiwo’ole dominating inside, there was no need for a lot of fullcourt pressure. The Falcons used it for a few minutes late in the first quarter, but pulled it before the second quarter.
“We chose not to press,” Kalani coach Chi Mok said. “Sometimes we spend too much energy on defense and it affects our offense.”
Once again, sophomore Kalena Halunajan was often unstoppable on penetration to the bucket. The guard scored 19 points on 9-for-12 shooting, but with the normal rotation chopped down, she had to play all 32 minutes. She committed four of her six turnovers in the final quarter as Waiakea sprung its fullcourt pressure.
This is why attrition is going to be a key factor for Kalani. With center Kandyce Woods gone — she left the team before the opening-round game on Monday — plus in-game injuries to Heidi Kishaba, Daesha Viela and Alayna Woods, the Falcons were up against the most adversity they’d faced all season.
“Everything happens for a reason,” said Shelby McDaniel, who had eight points and six rebounds for Kalani.
The Falcons got timely, valuable minutes from Lilehina Oyama, Mandi Haraga and Kira Niemi. Oyama and Haraga’s ballhandling and passing were crucial, and Niemi banged inside for five rebounds. Seldom-used Aiya Souphilavong also provided solid minutes in the second half.
The Warriors earned the high seed after beating Konawaena twice in the BIIF season. The first time, they ended Konaweana’s 124-game win streak in league play. The second time was in the league championship game on Konawaena’s home court.
Despite their frequent travel to Oahu each year in preseason, the Warriors looked out of sync at times. Kalani opted to stay back in halfcourt man defense rather than press fullcourt, and so did Waiakea, one of the quickest, if smallest, teams in the tournament.
One big question in the semifinals will be whether Kalani can stand its ground against a big, fast team like Kamehameha without Woods, a strong post who was valuable to the Falcon defense in immeasurable ways. She’s gone, though — “She quit,” Kamakawiwo‘ole said — and the Falcons aren’t looking back.
Another question: how will Halunajan, who played 32 minutes, and Kamakawiwo‘ole (29 minutes) respond in a back-to-back situation?
The teams haven’t met since Nov. 9, when Kamehameha won 69-65 at the Matsumoto Law Group Black and Gold Classic. Now Kalani gets its shot for a first-ever state semifinal win, even as the sight of Kishaba limping and Akiona on crutches sets off red alerts across Falcon nation.
HHSAA D-I State Tournament
|1||Feb. 4||Konawaena vs. Leilehua||Kona, 61-41||Konawaena|
|2||Feb. 4||Maui vs. Kaiser||Maui, 55-44||Maui|
|3||Feb. 4||Radford vs. Kalani||Kaln, 70-43||Kalani|
|4||Feb. 4||Kamehameha vs. Mililani||KSK, 41-17||Kamehameha|
|5||Feb. 7||(1) 'Iolani vs. Maui||Iol, 67-32||Moanalua|
|6||Feb. 7||(4) Kahuku vs. Konawaena||Kona, 46-42||Moanalua|
|7||Feb. 7||(2) Waiakea vs. Kalani||Kaln, 73-57||McKinley|
|8||Feb. 7||(3) Lahainaluna vs. Kamehameha||KSK, 47-30||McKinley|
|9*||Feb. 8||Maui vs. Kahuku||Kah, 60-19||Stan Sheriff Center|
|10*||Feb. 8||Waiakea vs. Lahainaluna||Waik, 60-54||Stan Sheriff Center|
|11||Feb. 8||Kalani vs. Kamehameha||KSK, 62-49||Stan Sheriff Center|
|12||Feb. 8||'Iolani vs. Konawaena||Iol, 43-22||Stan Sheriff Center|
|13*||Feb. 9||Kahuku vs. Waiakea||Waik, 56-53||Stan Sheriff Center|
|14*||Feb. 9||Kalani vs. Konawaena||Kona, 52-44||Stan Sheriff Center|
|15||Feb. 9||Kamehameha vs. 'Iolani||Iol, 52-49||Stan Sheriff Center|
|* — consolation|
HHSAA D-II State Tournament
|1||Feb. 6||Farrington vs. St. Francis||Far, 41-35||Damien|
|2||Feb. 6||Waimea vs. Waipahu||Waim, 59-48||Damien|
|3||Feb. 6||Ka'u vs. University||ULS, 54-40||Kalani|
|4||Feb. 6||Hanalani vs. KS-Hawaii||Han, 44-28||Kalani|
|5*||Feb. 7||St. Francis vs. Waipahu||Waip, 39-36||Damien|
|6*||Feb. 7||Ka'u vs. KS-Hawaii||Kau, 46-35||Kalani|
|7||Feb. 7||(1) Hawaii Baptist vs. Farrington||HBA, 50-29||Damien|
|8||Feb. 7||(4) Hawaii Prep vs. Waimea||Waim, 53-14||Damien|
|9||Feb. 7||(2) Seabury Hall vs. University||SH, 62-53||Kalani|
|10||Feb. 7||(3) Castle vs. Hanalani||Han, 63-50||Kalani|
|11*||Feb. 8||Waipahu vs. Kau||Waip, 52-38||Stan Sheriff Center|
|12*||Feb. 8||University vs. Castle||ULS, 52-49||Kalani|
|13*||Feb. 8||Farrington vs. Hawaii Prep||HPA, 47-38||Kalani|
|14||Feb. 8||Seabury Hall vs. Hanalani||SH, 55-43||Damien|
|15||Feb. 8||Hawaii Baptist vs. Waimea||HBA, 56-47||Damien|
|16*||Feb. 9||University vs. Hawaii Prep||ULS, 37-29||Stan Sheriff Center|
|17*||Feb. 9||Hanalani vs. Waimea||Waim, 72-60||Stan Sheriff Center|
|18||Feb. 9||Seabury Hall vs. Hawaii Baptist||HBA, 43-39||Stan Sheriff Center|
|* — consolation|