(Here’s the complete, extended version of today’s follow-up story on Konawaena’s girls basketball championship victory.)
Foul trouble. Illness. Punahou.
The road back to the state championship was a path of roundball destruction by the Konawaena Wildcats. At the Hawaiian Airlines/Hawaii High School Athletic Association State Championships, the onslaught of wipeouts continued. A 25-point win over Kaiser. A 31-point rout of ‘Iolani. Just a continuation, apparently, of a season when the ‘Cats outscored opponents by more than 43 points per game.
Punahou paid no mind. It was the Buffanblu who seemed destined to upset Konawaena on Friday, taking an early lead, then rallying to tie it at 43-all in the final minute.
But then came Misilosa U‘ulopa with a score in the post, a couple of free throws by Galdeira, and two foul shots by Dawnyelle Awa in the final minute. After a season of domination, the Wildcats clawed their way to a 49-45 win in the final.
If Galdeira is the spark to Konawaena’s fiery intensity, Awa is the thermostat. With 10 seconds left, Awa could finally smile.
“I feel really good. It was intense. I was getting a little scared,” Awa said.
Konawaena finished the season 32-1.
After the title victory, the Wildcats were more relieved than ecstatic. There was no celebration pile at midcourt. The mantle of a season-long No. 1 ranking left little room for surprise. The only thing left was for coach Bobbie Awa to accept a Sharpie and “x” out the “un” on a supersized banner touting Konawaena’s season-long mantra: Unfinished Business.
Dawnyelle Awa and forward Anuhea Wall were voted to the all-tourney team. Galdeira (15 points, seven rebounds, three steals per game) was named most outstanding player. Her voice
“I feel good. Tired. My voice hurts,” said Galdeira, who had flu-like symptoms throughout the tournament.
Her stats and explosive drives to the bucket were impressive, but Galdeira showed this week that she can run the point when necessary. With Awa and Galdeira, both juniors, keeping composure down the stretch, there was no repeat of last year’s final loss.
“Don’t panic. Just slow it down. That’s all,” Galdeira said.
The constant was defense.
“I think it was the heart. These girls wanted it,” coach Awa said. “They felt like one (last year) slipped away and they wanted it. This is probably one of the best defensive teams I’ve had. Way back when Jessica (Hanato) won that very first state championship we had a really good defensive team. To come back this year and played defense like this is really good.
“This year, we probably took the most charges I’ve seen our team take. We stress it all the time. They sacrificed and they take it.”
Punahou coach Mike Taylor extracted every drop of potential out of his team.
“I don’t think anybody in the state gave us a chance to win outside of our team. Hat’s off to them. They’re a great team, great coach. We’ll learn from this,” he said.
It was a sometimes puzzling week in some ways for the Wildcats, whose two best players — Awa and Galdeira — now have two titles in just three years. If not for a blown lead in the final last year against Lahainaluna, it would’ve been a three-peat on Friday.
Awa, a tremendous defensive player, was in foul trouble in the semifinal and final. Despite the reputation of Oahu officials to allow more contact than Big Island Interscholastic Federation referees, Awa had two fouls before the second quarter in both games and went right to the bench.
Against ‘Iolani, Konawaena increased the lead despite losing its point guard for most of the first half. The ‘Cats maintained their lead against Punahou with Awa sitting.
Coach Bobbie Awa kept an even keel despite a number of calls that had Wildcat backers — numbering in the hundreds — booing by the second half. Her players did no complaining. In fact, there is an allure to Konawaena that defies the norm. Among the backers were Kaiser players — who had lost to Konawaena in the quarterfinals — who painted K-O-N-A on their bellies. Even Lahainaluna standout Maiki Viela, who befriended the Wildcats last year, sat among Konawaena’s legion while wearing an airbrushed Wildcats T-shirt.
Punahou was tight-knit to the end. In their final timeout with 3 seconds left and the game out of reach, Taylor had nothing to say about the loss and everything to say from his soul.
“He talked about how hard we’ve worked,” Sataraka said. “He knows we gave it our all, that it goes beyond basketball. It’s life. I loved playing for him. He’s a great coach.”
The future will test several of the perennial contenders. Next year, Awa and Galdeira will return to the Wildcats. So will forward Courtney Kaupu, who made big strides as a sophomore this season, and guard Makayla Awa. Wall and U‘ulopa, however, will graduate.
Punahou will lose its top scorers, Hailey-Ann Maeda and Mysha Sataraka, who both were voted to the all-tourney team. Also gone to graduation will be Julia Brand and Jen Ching. With a new core, coach Mike Taylor will regroup and reaffirm principles of teamwork, unselfishness and defense.
‘Iolani’s core is built around underclassmen: guards Kylie Maeda and Saphyre Rezentes, post scorer Alex Masaquel and emerging posts Alyssa Liilii and Taimane Passi. The Raiders will lose guards Lahela Usui and Kaitlyn Shikada to graduation.
Of the semifinal teams, Lahainaluna faces the biggest task. Viela will play for Gonzaga, and point guard Hi‘ilei Bacalso will also graduate. That leads a door open for an influx of sophomores and juniors, including forward Ana-Marie Lauese, to carry on.
Once again, the business of girls basketball supremacy belongs to Konawaena.
Paul Honda, Star-Advertiser