The Kalani Falcons haven’t brought joy to their coaches every day.
They just put the pedal to the metal on game day. The fourth-ranked Lady Falcons did precisely what coach Chi Mok asked for on Thursday night in a 67-47 win over a talented Leilehua squad.
Mok’s command: “Block out, rebound and crash the offensive boards.”
Kalani outrebounded Leilehua 14-7 in the opening quarter, grabbing eight offensive caroms. Senior Kamalu Kamakawiwo‘ole was especially rugged with six boards, four on the offensive end, in the first eight minutes. She led the Falcons with 21 points (8-for-13 shooting), 12 rebounds, five assists, three steals and six blocks. The 5-foot-11 any-position ballhawk was just two steals away from an extremely rare 5×5 game.
Freshman guard Kalena Halunajan tallied 16 points and eight rebounds, and Shelby McDaniel had eight points and three blocks.
All those extra possessions created by Kamakawiwo‘ole’s hustle on the offensive glass in the first quarter had an unexpected benefit. Leilehua’s top scorer, Kaylen Kamelamela, had three fouls and left the game with 1:14 to go in the opening quarter. She picked up a fourth foul late in the second quarter. It was rough going for both teams.
Before it was all over, Kamakawiwo‘ole and center Kandyce Woods fouled out, as did Kamelamela. A few more players on each side finished with four personals each.
“Kaylen is our heart and soul. She’s our captain. There were a lot of questionable calls,” longtime Leilehua coach Elroy Dumlao said.
Dumlao isn’t implying that fouls cost the Mules a win.
“We could’ve executed more on offense and defense if not for the fouls. Hat’s off to Kalani,” he said. “They’re pretty much the most talented team we’ve played.”
Mok’s squad made the best of the situation, hitting 67 percent at the foul line (18 for 27). Leilehua shot 59 percent (13-for-22).
“I’ve never been one to be to be (critical) of the referees. I know it’s a hard job, but some calls, you know, very questionable,” Mok said. “Either way., you know. That’s my job as a coach when I see something, whether we agree or not, as long as it’s not a personal thing.”
The game within a game, something professional players are good at, is recognizing which officials have certain tendencies.
“We talked about being smart, adjust to what the referees are calling, how they’re calling it. So if they’re calling it a little bit tight on our end, you’ve got to play smarter. A couple of our fouls were out of frustration. Just being smarter when we realize a referee might not be calling it our way,” Mok said.
Kamelamela was disappointed after the game, of course. Facing Kamakawiwo‘ole for much of the night, she finished with six points, two rebounds and a steal. The senior shot 2-for-8 from the field, but she and her teammates will have to get over the quarterfinal loss quickly. Leilehua, the West’s third-place finisher, will host the East’s fourth-place team, Moanalua, on Tuesday. The winner will claim a state-tournament berth. The loser is done for the season.
Moanalua will have to find a way to contend with Leilehua’s versatile wing, Asia Castillo. She had 20 points and 13 rebounds against Kalani, shooting 2-for-6 from the arc and 6-for-11 from the free-throw line. Castillo was 5-for-6 at the charity stripe in the first half. She also had three assists and three steals. While Castillo shot 6-for-14 overall from the field, her teammates were 9-for-44.
Against Kalani’s man defense, Kamelamela and Castillo didn’t have any direct playmaking opportunities, though Kamelamela fed Castillo on a straightaway 3 late in the game.
Kalani (19-6 overall) will meet Mililani, the top team in the OIA West, on Tuesday in a 5 p.m. semifinal matchup at Radford.
“We played pretty even (with Mililani) last year, so it’s going to be a pretty good game,” Mok said.
Leilehua (9-4, 9-3 OIA) 11 6 12 18 — 47
Kalani (19-6, 11-1 OIA) 22 10 17 18 — 67
Leilehua: Karina Pfifer 5, Jenesis Henry 2, Angelina Dela Cruz 2, Victoria Canencia 7, Kaylen Kamelamela 6, Victoria Brice 0, Glorrema Williander 2, Victoria Felise 3, Angielyn Dela Cruz 0, Asia Castillo 20, Julia Hufanga 0.
Kalani: Kamalu Kamakawiwo‘ole 21, Mandi Haraga 0, Daesha Viela 2, Lilehina Oyama 1, Alayna Akiona 9, Aiya Souphilavong 0, Hallie Birdsong 1, Kalena Halunajan 16, Shelby McDaniel 8, Kandyce Woods 7, Kira Niemi 2.
3-point goals: Leilehua 3 (Castillo 2, Canencia), Kalani 5 (Kamakawiwo‘ole 2, Akiona, Halunajan, McDaniel).
OIA PlayoffsUpdated: Jan. 24
|1/16||Kapolei (W4)||Kaimuki (E5)||Kapo, 54-36|
|1/16||Kaiser (E3)||Nanakuli (W6)||Kais, 56-40|
|1/16||Leilehua (W3)||Roosevelt (E6)||Lei, 45-32|
|1/16||Moanalua (E4)||Waianae (W5)||Moan, 55-47 (OT)|
|1/17||Kahuku (E1)||Kapolei||Kah, 48-38|
|1/17||Radford (W2)||Kaiser||Kais, 57-48 (OT)|
|1/17||Kalani (E2)||Leilehua||Kaln, 67-47|
|1/17||Mililani (W1)||Moanalua||Mil, 63-51|
|Consolation semifinals—at Higher Seed|
|Semifinals — At Radford|
|Fifth place—At Higher seed|
|Third place—At Higher seed|
|Championship — At Radford|
|1/16||Pearl City (W2)||Kalaheo (E3)||PC, 54-51|
|1/16||Farrington (E2)||Waialua (W3)||Far, 60-34|
|1/22||Castle (E1)||Pearl City||Cast, 51-14|
|1/22||Waipahu (W1)||Farrington||Far, 62-60|
|Third place—At Higher seed|
|1/24||Pearl City||Waipahu||Waip, 41-33|
|Championship— At Radford|
|1/24||Castle||Farrington||Cast, 63-52 (OT)|