Harley Simon is only a junior, but she sure played like a senior on Thursday night.
She dove to the floor for loose balls on numerous occasions in a comeback attempt that eventually failed. Her Mid-Pacific team cut an 18-point halftime deficit throughout the second half, but the Owls ended up losing to Interscholastic League of Honolulu girls basketball front-runner Hawaii Baptist 45-35.
It was a party-like atmosphere at the Mid-Pacific gym. The band played. They announced raffle winners in between periods. There were green and white balloons and the gym was packed because it was senior night.
Senior night, by the way, is why Simon mustered the courage to do what she did. She started to put the team on her shoulders by firing up six straight free throws. Then, she hit an outside jumper and swished a 3-pointer, all after the halftime break. To get to the line, she made several beelines to the basket to draw fouls. All told, she scored 12 of her game-high 15 points in the second half.
You see, Simon cares deeply about her senior teammates.
“I’m from the Big Island and when I came here as a freshman, all of them, my seniors, made the transition easy,” she said. “They welcomed me and I can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done for me and for the team.”
The problem with Mid-Pacific’s night was the first quarter, when the Owls were outscored 13-0. Head coach Sherice Ajifu, after the game, called that “unacceptable.” Both Ajifu and Eagles head coach Keith Sugiura thought Mid-Pacific’s slow start had to do with the emotions of senior night.
Scott Wagner, the Owls’ athletic director, casually commented that a high-ranking administrator affiliated with the ILH speculated that it was possible this matchup between league champion Hawaii Baptist (14-0) and second-place Mid-Pacific (11-3) could be a preview of the Division II state title game.
Simon, according to coach Ajifu, is just starting to get back into a groove after suffering a knee injury and then a concussion, after which the team took precautionary measures to make sure she was ready to play again.