Kaimi Kalei scored 15 points, including a key 3-pointer with 49 seconds left in regulation, as No. 5-ranked St. Francis rallied for a 41-37 victory over Hawaii Baptist in overtime on Saturday night at Dan Liu Gymnasium.
The win kept St. Francis unbeaten and gave the Saints sole possession of first place in the ILH Division II standings at 7-0 (15-0 overall). HBA dropped to 5-1 in league play (14-5 overall), and the two titans of the division added another epic chapter to their history of battles.
Hawaii Baptist, facing the unbeaten Saints, had a four-point halftime lead and spread the court just enough to make the visitors chase them. The bigger, taller Saints kept chasing, and by the end of the third, HBA had the bonus in effect. After Ally Wada made one of two foul shots, the Eagles had their biggest lead, 28-23, with 15.5 ticks left in the third stanza. The strategy was working.
From there, it was all uphill for the home team. Wada went on to finish with 25 points (and seven rebounds). The slowdown approach caught the Saints off guard, but it wasn’t sustainable, at least on this night.
“We didn’t really know what to do. It was shocking and frustrating,” said Kalei, a senior guard who swished a game-tying 3-pointer with 49 seconds left in regulation. “Nobody did that to us before. Our coaches said to trust our help defense.”
On the other end of the court, where the Saints stayed in man-to-man defense from the start, that meant keeping Lani Neves on Wada. The senior, Wada, drove and drove in the first half, hitting the ground five times. Wada made all 10 of her free-throw attempts in the first half and had 15 points, but appeared to be exhausted in the final minute before intermission.
Instead of more Wada attacking the basket, the Eagles opted to chew up as much clock as possible, and they were effective at it. That tension boiled over during the third quarter when the Saints’ bench blew a gasket and was whistled for a technical foul. That’s when Wada missed her first foul shot after making her first 12 attempts.
In the fourth quarter, St. Francis chipped away, but HBA sophomore Sasha Phillip’s free throws opened the lead to 34-31 with 2:27 left. The Saints followed with an unforced turnover, a one-handed pass that went out of bounds near the corner. HBA guard Kyley Nakagawa then missed a one-and-one with 56 seconds remaining in regulation.
Kalei then splashed the long, clutch 3-pointer in transition to tie the game with 49 ticks left. HBA had two shots before the regulation buzzer sounded. Caitlin Ching missed a 12-foot runner and Wada’s runner from the elbow missed as time ran out.
In OT, Kalei fed center Mata Sagapolutele for an open swish from the right elbow on an inbounds play to give the Saints the lead for the first time since the second quarter. Kalei added two free throws for a 38-34 lead with 1:08 remaining.
Wada drove left for a layup an instant later. With 48 seconds to go, Nani Santos hit one of two foul shots for St. Francis, stretching the lead to 39-36. Wada sank one of two charity shots to cut the lead to two with 24 seconds remaining. The Eagles got the ball back down 39-37, but Wada’s NBA-range 3 air-balled with 3 seconds to go.
Sagapolutele put the win on ice for the Saints by sinking two free throws with 2.5 seconds left. The sophomore center finished with seven points and six rebounds.
HBA did everything it could by the book, a smaller team against a large, physical and athletic squad, but eight turnovers after halftime — after just three in the first half — weren’t expected.
“We’re proud of them,” Eagles coach Keith Sugiura said. “They made a great effort to execute the game plan. Then Kaimi hits that big 3, a little further back than normal. Hopefully, we learn from this and get better. Give credit to coach Chris (Hoe). He kept his girls composed.”
The Saints shot 44 percent from the field (14-for-32) against HBA’s sticky 2-3 zone. HBA shot just over 29 percent (8-for-27), but made up for it at the foul line with 19-for-25 shooting (75 percent). St. Francis was 8-for-13 at the line, including 5-for-5 in the extra period.
The Eagles outrebounded the Saints 27-17, but St. Francis had just five giveaways for the entire contest.
At Dan Liu Gymnasium, HBA campus
St. Francis (7-0) 11 10 2 11 7 — 41
Hawaii Baptist (5-1) 13 12 3 6 3 — 37
SF: Misiona Riberio 3, Nani Santos 7, Trisadee Kahunahana 0, Kaimi Kalei 15, Skye Ah Yat 2, Savannah Neves 2, Zayla Sismar-Evangelista 0, Charlotte Faletau 0, Lani Neves 5, Mata Sagapolutele 7.
HBA: Alexis Dang 1, Morgan Lorenzo 0, Caitlin Ching 0, Ally Wada 25, Kyley Nakagawa 2, Katelyn Nakagawa 0, Ka‘imi Duncklee 4, Sasha Phillip 5.
3-point goals—SF 3 (Kalei 2, Neves), HBA 1 (Wada).