The Wildcats are warming up and almost ready to square off against South Medford (Ore.), a team that rallied past Punahou in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
Bishop O’Dowd, the California powerhouse, will face host ‘Iolani in the second semifinal to follow this game. I doubt Konawaena will look past South Medford. The Panthers rallied from 13 points down to oust ILH powerhouse Punahou. That probably should serve as plenty of warning for any team from the islands, even the powerhouse Wildcats.
I’m doing the full deal tonight with video, running play by play in my notebook, full stats. When I have time, I’ll update the score in this blog headline. There won’t be much else unless I can grow an extra brain and two arms.
Both teams in man defense, which is good news for the quick Wildcats. Chanelle Molina driving past her man with regularity. She has nine points already. Konawaena leads 20-16 after one.
Kaulawela Chamberlin of South Medford getting wide open for open looks and has hit back-to-back treys to tie the game at 22.
The Panthers switched from man to a 1-3-1 matchup zone that gave Konawaena a bit of a pause. Mikayla Tablit hit an open 3 from the top to push Konawaena’s lead to 27-24.
Panthers DOMINATING on the offensive glass, but having trouble stopping Chanelle Molina in the paint. Fakes, quickness, reverse layups, inside pivots.
Wildcats switch to a 2-3 zone and Cherilyn Awa turns a steal into a layup. But the Panthers like being zoned. Juli Tago drains back-to-back 3-pointers to pull her team within 36-34.
Celena Jane Molina closes out the half with a left-handed follow shot on sister Cherilyn’s corner 3 miss with 4 seconds left. Konawaena leads at intermission 38-34.
Wildcats surgically picking SM’s 1-3-1 zone apart. Chanelle Molina at the hub in the middle, operating flawlessly with pinpoint passes. Tablit came up with a big 3 to open the lead to 55-4. Chanelle Momlina with 10 points in the quarter. Just one turnover in the third as Konawaena takes a 55-40 lead into the fourth.
SM back to man defense, right in Konawaena’s wheelhouse. Konawaena sticking to a 2-3 matchup zone. Another SM turnover.
The Panthers are bigger, but not quick enough to regain momentum defensively. The Wildcats milked the clock out of their series of motion offenses. Not an outright stall by any means. They attacked and missed. South Medford chipped into the lead a bit, but couldn’t get rolling again.
After all that interior dominance by the Panthers early, the Wildcats battled back. The final rebound tally: 25 for each team. Stunning. Konawaena is rarely the taller team in tournaments like this, but they always find a way to compete. They forced the Panthers into 15 turnovers while committing just five of their own.
Tago, who signed with UH, finished with 12 points. Some Rainbow Wahine players and coaches, including Big West coach of the year Laura Beeman, were on hand to watch the game.
Chanelle Molina finished with 26 points and five rebounds, while Celena Jane Molina, Cherilyn Molina (six assists) and Mikayla Tablit (three treys) had 11 points apiece.
After the game, Chanelle Molina said she played a sub-par game. That she should’ve been more aggressive. Less hesitant.
Perhaps. But to me, it looked like the Wildcats were simply patient and knew precisely when and where to strike. Getting the tough Panthers to drop their potentially troublesome 1-3-1 zone in favor of man defense was a huge factor. The ‘Cats were just too quick, 1 to 5, off the dribble, on cuts to the basket.
Sometimes a champion wins on points. By a unanimous decision. It isn’t as satisfying, maybe, as a knockout. But when a team of smaller, skilled players — featherweights, lightweights and welterweights — can oust a squad of middleweights and cruiserweights, that is something undeniably amazing. It’s a sweet science of its own.