The season has progressed stage by stage for the Konawaena Wildcats.
On Thursday night in the quarterfinal round of the Snapple/HHSAA Girls Basketball State Championships, Coach Bobbie Awa knew, as always, precisely how to unlock her team’s superpowers.
“We played a nice second half. We actually got some transition buckets. We should’ve been doing that all along,” said Awa, who has guided the Wildcats to eight state crowns in the past 14 seasons.
That reluctance to run early may have been the byproduct of Caiyle Kaupu’s status. She sat with two personal fouls in the first quarter. Then again, with three or four guards on the floor, Konawaena (24-2 overall) could have run much more. Instead, it led Moanalua 24-19 in what seemed like a sure crawl to the finish.
But after that halftime chat, Konawaena crashed the boards on both ends — point guard Cherilyn Molina finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds — and sprinted the floor for a 20-4 run in the third quarter. The final 59-32 score belied how close it was for one half, but Konawaena’s 16 offensive rebounds were basically 16 extra gifts of life. Six of those offensive rebounds were by Molina, one of the smallest players on the court.
“She’s been reminded about it all year by her coaches to get offensive rebounds,” Awa said, pointing to assistant coach Dawnyelle Awa. “She understands.”
The accent on glass work is team-wide. Mo‘o Mo‘o Fautanu, now coming off the bench, was a rebounding machine in the second quarter with six caroms. Four of those were on the offensive end, including a tremendous hustle play that left the junior flying into the bleachers.
“She’s been doing that on the glass all season,” Awa said.
Fautanu also stepped in to play defense against Moanalua’s powerful low-post scorer, Delylah Sanerivi, after Kaupu sat down early. Sanerivi was limited to four points and eight rebounds.
“We just fronted her with backside help,” said Awa, making it sound so simple.
Konawaena’s defense has been the foundation for a legacy of championships, college graduates and, right on the bench, players-turned-coaches. Sanerivi had 21 points and 16 rebounds against Kahuku just a week ago. Konawaena, aside from Kaupu at 5 feet, 9 inches, doesn’t have another player above 5-7.
The protected the paint with man defense, zone defense, and still defended at the 3-point arc. Moanalua shot 2-for-17 from deep.
That makes it two big offensive bursts in the second half in as many games. Konawaena’s BIIF title game against Waiakea was similar. Close at the half, all Wildcats after the break. Mikayla Tablit (10 points) and Tanniya Uchida (10) teamed with Molina to give the ‘Cats plenty of composure, defense and alertness on both ends. Kaupu finished with nine points and five boards. Awa went to her bench early and got her starters plenty of rest.
Now Lahainaluna awaits, the same Lunas team that beat Konawaena 44-42 in a preseason contest at Col. Ellison Onizuka Memorial Gymnasium. Lahainaluna played without two key players that day, including Susie Namoa, who had 17 points and 11 rebounds in a win over ‘Iolani tonight.