With two starters out, the Kalani Falcons weren’t about to eliminate the No. 3-ranked team in the state.
Or would they? With 2:28 left in the third quarter, Hallie Birdsong’s second consecutive 3-point bomb brought Kalani within four points of Maryknoll in a first-round game of the Snapple/HHSAA Girls Basketball State Championships in Clarence T.C. Ching Gymnasium.
It was one of the closest games in the opening round through three quarters since the format was changed to play first-round games on Monday. Kalani’s momentum wasn’t sustainable. The Lady Falcons wore down, and Maryknoll’s Lilly Koki (14 points, seven rebounds) and Serenity Moananu (12 points) came up big in a 17-7 run that led to a 59-42 win for Maryknoll.
Two Kalani starters were sidelined by injury and illness. Three Spartans were playing through illness.
“I just wanted to come out and try to win, try and get an upset. I think when I hit my second 3 in the corner, in the third quarter, that’s when I said, keep on shooting,” said Birdsong, a junior guard.
Kalani finished 11-10 overall after opening the season with a new coach, a new system.
“I thought we had it, but then on defense we started to fall apart,” senior guard Lile Oyama said. “We lost our man a lot. We weren’t boxing out.”
Birdsong finished with 22 points on 5-for-9 shooting from the field and 9-for-11 at the foul line. She and a core of players in the rotation will be back next season, including coach Justice Sueing’s daughters, Jennesice and Jennicia.
Jennesice Sueing had 11 points and 12 rebounds in a strong performance on the post.
Kalani was 7-4 in the regular season, lost in the league quarterfinals to Moanalua, then won at Nanakuli to qualify for the state tourney. They also won at Kaiser in the fifth-place game to finish 3-1 in the playoffs.
Oyama, who finished with seven points, has high hopes for next season’s team.
“Just play strong. You can’t let anyone else doubt you. We had a lot of haters, a lot doubters. No one thought we’d make it to states, you know. Even a lot of our team didn’t expect to be here, but we were able to pull it together,” she said.
In other first-round games on Monday:
Waiakea 55, Mililani 42
Keeli-Jade Smith led three Warriors in double figures with 15 points as Waiakea advances to play MIL champion Lahainaluna in the quarterfinals on Thursday at 5 p.m. at Moanalua.
The Warriors (11-3) beat the Lunas in a preseason tournament in December by 16 points.
Destynee Williams added 13 points and Kelsie Imai finished with 10 points, five assists, four rebounds, three steals and two blocks for Waiakea.
Kayla Tansiongco had 12 points to lead the Trojans (11-3).
King Kekaulike 61, Redford 35
Cailyn Ukida and Ledjan Pahukoa scored 12 points apiece for Na Alii (11-5), which forced 31 turnovers to advance to the quarterfinals against BIIF champion Konawaena on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Kalani.
Pahukoa added seven steals to help King Kekaulike win a game in the D-I state tournament for just the second time ever.
Angel Asaah led the Rams (11-3) with a game-high 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Moanalua 34, Kaiser 28
Manu Itula did a little bit of everything for Na Menehune, finishing with seven points, eight rebounds and six steals to help Moanalua advance to the quarterfinals where it will host defending champion and top seed ‘Iolani on Thursday at 7 p.m.
Moanalua (11-4) forced 28 turnovers and held the Cougars (9-7) to 20.5-percent shooting (9-for-44) from the field.
Breanne Louis-Merry chipped in seven points and nine rebounds for Moanalua. Jodie Otani and Tanya Blakeney had eight points to lead Kaiser.
HHSAA State Tournament
|1||Feb. 3||Moanalua vs. Kaiser||Moan, 34-28||Moanalua|
|2||Feb. 3||Waiakea vs. Mililani||Waik, 55-42||Waiakea|
|3||Feb. 3||Radford vs. King Kekaulike||KK, 61-35||King Kekaulike|
|4||Feb. 3||Maryknoll vs. Kalani||Mryk, 59-42||Maryknoll|
|5||Feb. 6||(1) 'Iolani vs. Moanalua||Iol, 65-31||Moanalua|
|6||Feb. 6||(4) Lahainaluna vs. Waiakea||Waik, 37-26||Moanalua|
|7||Feb. 6||(2) Konawaena vs. King Kekaulike||Kona, 40-37||Kalani|
|8||Feb. 6||(3) Kahuku vs. Maryknoll||Kah, 43-27||Kalani|
|9*||Feb. 7||King Kekaulike vs. Maryknoll||Mryk, 69-40||Blaisdell Arena|
|10*||Feb. 7||Moanalua vs. Lahainaluna||Lah, 52-39||Blaisdell Arena|
|11||Feb. 7||Konawaena vs. Kahuku||Kona, 56-39||Blaisdell Arena|
|12||Feb. 7||'Iolani vs. Waiakea||Iol, 57-44||Blaisdell Arena|
|13*||Feb. 8||Maryknoll vs. Lahainaluna||Mryk, 50-38||Blaisdell Arena|
|14*||Feb. 8||Kahuku vs. Waiakea||Waik, 56-44||Blaisdell Arena|
|15||Feb. 8||Konawaena vs. 'Iolani||Iol, 55-46||Blaisdell Arena|
|* — consolation|