Retracing the steps of the Kamehameha Warriors also means a venture into the voyage of the Mililani Trojans.
It was Mililani that met Kalani last week in the semifinals of the OIA Division I playoffs. Mililani went 10-0 in the West, but wasn’t able to break into the Star-Advertiser Girls Basketball Top 10 until Jan. 21, just days after defeating Moanalua in the OIA quarterfinals.
The day after cracking the Top 10, the Trojans gave Kalani a major rub before falling 38-34 in the semifinals. If there’s such a thing as a quality loss, this was probably the definition for the Lady Trojans. After a third-place win over Kaiser, Mililani was in the dead-man’s curve of state brackets. For decades, the OIA 3 has been worse off than OIA 4.
Need proof? Mililani was slotted to face the ILH 2, Kamehameha, in the opening round of the state tourney. Kaiser hit the road and went to Maui.
Tonight, the Trojans showed their grit, limiting Kamehameha to 1-for-12 shooting in the first quarter. They collapsed consistently on Warriors standout Kalina Obrey, and she had just four points by halftime. It wasn’t enough. Kamehameha turned a seven-point halftime lead into a 41-17 win at Kekuhaupio Gymnasium.
It was like watching a boa constrictor squeeze the life out of a determined, but ultimately doomed prey.
“I knew Mililani was a smaller team so I stayed inside more. I trusted my guards,” said Obrey, who finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
The senior shot just 4-for-14 from the field, but was a sparkling 8-for-8 at the free-throw line. Nobody shot well on this night. The Warriors, in their own gym, were 11-for-54 (20 percent), but limited Mililani to 7-for-47 shooting (15 percent).
It was the Patriots and Rams all over again. Warrior guards limited Mililani’s star guard, Dahlis Sablay, to one point on 0-for-10 shooting. Sablay is one of the best players in the state, but any time she turned the corner on a defender, a wall of tall Warriors awaited.
“Dahlis is their main player, so I stayed down low. We needed that to keep the lead,” Obrey said.
One of the long-armed, springy defenders in the paint was Noelle Sua-Godinet, who made her first appearance in the game during the second quarter. She had battled illness for the past several days, but showed no lingering effects, at least not on the hardwood.
“Coach told me I’d come off the bench. I played hard for my team. It feels good. We worked hard for this,” said Sua-Godinet, who had five points in the second quarter, plus two rebounds and a block. “We’re not done yet. This is just one step in our journey to our ultimate goal.”
Kamehameha took no chances, studying the Trojans on video again and again.
“We stuck someone on her early, just wanted to tire her out,” Warriors coach Pua Straight said. “Not fullcourt, (but) early in halfcourt. Once we went into man, we stayed disciplined and that gave them a bit of a hard time on offense in their five-out motion. It’s not as dribble heavy as ‘Iolani, not as many dribble cuts. Help side was really important, too.”
Often, instead of fighting through the high screen to follow a cutter from the weak side — shades of the old Baldwin boys offense during the Jon Garcia/Wayne Gushiken era — the Warriors simply hedged. The screen defender slid to the block with the cutter, and then faded back to her man as the original defender caught up.
That’s one way to hold a divisional champion to a season-low 17 points. It was simply bittersweet for the Lady Trojans, having an outstanding night on defense. They just couldn’t stop Kamehameha on the glass; the Warriors finished with a 47-24 edge in rebounding.
Mililani coach Michael Oyama searched for clues. Playing great defense, not a surprise, but shooting 15 percent? Maybe the deep space behind the backboards of Kekuhaupio Gymnasium took awhile to get used to. Or not.
“Playing on a home court is a big advantage. The optics here are not something we are used to, but that’s not an excuse,” he said. “There was a lid on the basket.”
After the first quarter, when Mililani led by as much as four points, the visitors shot 3-for-26 from the field. They also committed 17 turnovers to Kamehameha’s 10.
Mililani had entered the game with a 5-0 record on opponents’ courts. In the end, the Trojans end the season 1-5 against Top 10 teams, with losses to Maryknoll, Kamehameha (preseason), ‘Iolani, Kalani and again to Kamehameha. Mililani was a perfect 16-0 against unranked competition.
It’s the inevitable OIA 3-ILH 2 conundrum, the simple result of a complex set of by-laws. And just like that, the Trojans’ dreams for the season have come to an end. For Kamehameha, the dream lives on. The Warriors will meet Lahainaluna (20-4) on Thursday at McKinley Student Council Gym the quarterfinals.
Nearly three months have passed since the Lady Lunas and Warriors met. Back on Nov. 10, Lahainaluna knocked off Kamehameha 46-39. The Warriors had just edged Kalani 69-65 the night before. The Lunas had looked a step or two slow in losses to Maryknoll and ‘Iolani before surprising the Warriors in the Matsumoto Law Group Black and Gold Classic. None of it matters now, however.
“Lahaina’s a great team. They have Susi (Namoa), they have great guards,” Obrey said. “We have to come out ready for them. We have to come out hungry and they’re going to come out even hungrier.”
Sua-Godinet will again be an x-factor, a 5-foot-9 banger with long arms and endless energy.
“Lahainaluna, they’re a great team,” she said. “We’re prepared for this moment and we’ll give it our best.”
At Kekuhaupio Gymnasium
Mililani (17-5) 8 1 4 4 — 17
Kamehameha (16-6) 6 10 15 10 — 41
Mililani: Kayla Tansiongco 2, Maxine Gelacio 0, Heidi Lagafuaina 0, Jaliah Bowen 3, Kylie Bagay 3, Dahlis Sablay 1, Kianna Ponce 4, Kalena Gibson 4, Madison Ayers 0.
Kamehameha: Maddison Mangalao 2, Malie Marfil 5, Esther Naum 0, Haley Masaki 2, Camille Feary 11, Tehani Malterre 0, Alize Pratt 0, Noelle Sua-Godinet 5, Kalina Obrey 16, Kaylee-Brooke Manuel 0, Kalista Kahoekapu 0
3-point goals: Mililani none, Kamehameha 2 (Marfil, Feary).
HHSAA D-I State Tournament
|1||Feb. 4||Konawaena vs. Leilehua||Kona, 61-41||Konawaena|
|2||Feb. 4||Maui vs. Kaiser||Maui, 55-44||Maui|
|3||Feb. 4||Radford vs. Kalani||Kaln, 70-43||Kalani|
|4||Feb. 4||Kamehameha vs. Mililani||KSK, 41-17||Kamehameha|
|5||Feb. 7||(1) 'Iolani vs. Maui||Iol, 67-32||Moanalua|
|6||Feb. 7||(4) Kahuku vs. Konawaena||Kona, 46-42||Moanalua|
|7||Feb. 7||(2) Waiakea vs. Kalani||Kaln, 73-57||McKinley|
|8||Feb. 7||(3) Lahainaluna vs. Kamehameha||KSK, 47-30||McKinley|
|9*||Feb. 8||Maui vs. Kahuku||Kah, 60-19||Stan Sheriff Center|
|10*||Feb. 8||Waiakea vs. Lahainaluna||Waik, 60-54||Stan Sheriff Center|
|11||Feb. 8||Kalani vs. Kamehameha||KSK, 62-49||Stan Sheriff Center|
|12||Feb. 8||'Iolani vs. Konawaena||Iol, 43-22||Stan Sheriff Center|
|13*||Feb. 9||Kahuku vs. Waiakea||Waik, 56-53||Stan Sheriff Center|
|14*||Feb. 9||Kalani vs. Konawaena||Kona, 52-44||Stan Sheriff Center|
|15||Feb. 9||Kamehameha vs. 'Iolani||Iol, 52-49||Stan Sheriff Center|
|* — consolation|