Kamehameha-Hawaii just wrote a new page in the history book.
UH-Hilo signee Keanu Huihui scored 20 points and volleyball-basketball standout Maela Honma added 16 as KS-Hawaii edged No. 5 Waiakea, 48-47, on Thursday to complete regular-season play unbeaten in the BIIF for the first time.
“I’m still in shock. Last year, a goal of mine was to better myself as a player and leader, but this year I have more of a team goal. Our team has so much hustle and heart. I’m just so proud of my team. We were down the whole game mostly. I needed to take control of the game, be more positive toward my teammates because I know they get super nervous. To give them the confidence to shoot the ball.”
KS-Hawaii went 12-0 in the regular season.
“This feels darn great,” Honma said. “We’re learning to play smarter and play as a team. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”
Coach Donald Yamada’s team is technically in Division II, but ran the table in the league’s blended regular-season schedule and posted wins over D-I powerhouses Konawaena and, now, Waiakea. KS-Hawaii finished 12-0 in BIIF play (15-4 overall).
“It was very different. Konawaena has their firepower, their 3-pointers and inside game. Waiakea’s different, a little more versatile. We kept a few of their shooters in check. Pua kept them in the game and kept them in the lead the majority of the game,” Yamada said.
Pua Herrington led Waiakea (15-3, 10-2) with 21 points. Jolie Mantz finished with 10 points. Waiakea enters the BIIF D-I playoffs as the second seed behind Konawaena.
“We had to have someone on Jolie at all times. We communicated well,” Honma said. “We did underestimate their other shooters, but we stayed on Jolie.”
Mantz came into the game averaging 19 points per game.
“We stayed in our 1-2-2 and had someone scout her all the time so she couldn’t get those easy shots,” Yamada said. “Everybody told me to deny her, but I had a lot of confidence in our 1-2-2. We had some breakdowns that allowed Pua some shots. After that we knew where all their shooters were.”
Huihui, a 6-foot senior, found it crowded on the perimeter.
“We had to improvise a lot. Our offense wasn’t working as usual. They were ready for our bigs. We found ways for them to dive to the basket more instead of settling. That was a big difference. I think in the first half she had three or four offensive boards,” Yamada said. “I changed it out and put her closer to the basket. I stand by this: she is one of the best all-around players in the state, can go inside and outside.”
Coincidentally, KS-Hawaii’s achievement came on a night when the long-range gunner, Huihui, was highly effective in the paint.
“Last night is the first game in two years where she hasn’t hit a 3-pointer. It was all on offensive rebounds and attacking the basket,” Yamada said.
Honma, a two-time All-State Fab 15 selection in volleyball, was a vital, versatile performer again.
“She was attacking the basket, hitting the open shot. Waiakea was ready. There were times she had to run point. Their center was guarding her, so that got Anu more open looks,” Yamada said. “Maela knows she can beat her opponent to the basket.”
KS-Hawaii has evolved since the ups and downs of preseason. Role players like Baeleigh Lukzen (eight points) and Kacie Febo-Santiago balance out one of the hottest teams in the state.
“Baeleigh came up big. She was shooting a lot of 3s and made one late in the game. Kacie made a big impact, playing defense and running our offense when we needed her to,” Yamada said.
Should KS-Hawaii advance to the state tournament, powerful foes could await. No. 6-ranked Maryknoll, playing in Division II this season, has already clinched the ILH regular-season title and an automatic state-tournament berth. Runner-up Hanalani has also sealed a state berth out of the ILH.
Defending state champion Kapaa, 12-0 in league play, has clinched the KIF title and a state berth.
The Heide & Cook/HHSAA Girls Basketball Division II State Championships are set for Feb. 6-9. The first three days are at Kalani and Kaimuki High Schools. The final day is at Blaisdell Arena.
“I just hope that we can keep up the intensity. I just want my team to play with heart and just know we worked hard for everything we achieved,” Huihui said. “I feel like on this island, we have really good competition. We all work hard. I feel like that’s something a lot of people don’t notice. A lot of the girls on my team and other teams, too, we’re in the gym and the weight room. We do a lot of extra things to get where we are now. Our island is definitely underrated.”
The occasional chatter in the basketball community on Hawaii Island sometimes circles back to KS-Hawaii, that they belong in Division I. When a confluence of talent emerges with work ethic and cohesion, the Warriors are capable of beating any foe statewide. Yet, once the seniors graduate, Yamada notes, it’s back to square one.
“For us, these last couple of years, we’ve won (BIIF) D-II, some girls were developed, some came over. These next couple years, unless some girls get accepted in ninth grade, it’s going to be even. We’re not like Oahu. We had the pieces available to make the run, but from this point on, we’re going to have to develop again,” he said.
KS-Hawaii is two wins away from another D-II league title and an opportunity to prove itself on the big stage.
“We’re ready. We’re gunning for it every year,” Yamada said. “But we’re ready.”