The drought has finally ended for Waiakea.
The Warriors got 17 points from Tayvia Cabatbat to topple Konawaena 58-48 for the Big Island Interscholastic Federation championship on Saturday night at Col. Ellison Onizuka Gymnasium.
Waiakea ended Konawaena’s iron fist atop the BIIF standings. Konawaena had won 10 league championships in a row. Waiakea also ended a title drought that went all the way back to 2008.
Cabatbat, a transfer from Konawaena, scored seven points in the final quarter. Down by 10 in the first half, the home team rallied to within 41-38 of Waiakea. Konawaena’s top scorer and rebounder, Caiyle Kaupu, then fouled out and the Warriors pulled away for their second win over in a 16-day span.
Waiakea’s 54-25 win over Konawaena on Jan. 10 ended the Wildcats’ BIIF win streak at 124 games in a row. Balanced scoring did the trick in the title game. Keeli-Jade Smith added 11 points, Jazelle Dorser tallied 10 and Kelsie Imai chipped in nine.
Cabatbat stepped up in the nick of time. After playing — and starting — for Konawaena as a freshman, she actually moved in with her father, who lives in the Waiakea area, two weeks into the 2017-18 season, Warriors coach Brandon Kauhi said. Cabatbat arrived just a little too late to play as a sophomore and had to sit out, but had a strong summer with the team.
That built a foundation for a brilliant league championship-game effort.
“Tayvia had her best game for us. She’s so athletic, the way she can get to the basket, nobody can stop her. The last two weeks, she was great at practice. This is the Tayvia we saw all summer,” Kauhi said. “We told the girls the time we played in our gym, (Konawaena) missed everything. We were up 17-0. This time, in their gym, they might jump up on us 8-0. The atmosphere was awesome. The girl we tried to face guard (Kaliana Salazar-Harrell) hit a 3 to start it.”
Waiakea (20-4 overall) and Konawaena had already qualified for the BIIF’s two state-tournament berths. Konawaena defeated Hilo 37-33 in Friday’s semifinal round to earn the second berth. A young team this season with no seniors, Konawaena is the four-time defending state champion.
Salazar-Harrell, a freshman, led Konawaena (10-4 overall) with 14 points. Kaupu added 10 points, Kayla Pak scored nine and Grace Lyn Hing chipped in with eight.
Waiakea is reaching back to an old standard. In the 1990s, Waiakea was a powerhouse under Gil Tomas, led by standout players like Jennifer Kaeo. Now there is a new wave with this junior-heavy Warriors roster.
“It’s definitely an accomplishment,” Kauhi said. “It’s a reflection of the girls working hard with our coaches. It’s our third year and we have a great group of juniors who’ve been with us since they were freshmen. I think we’re peaking at the right time.”
Three teams, 9-1, and only two could advance to the big dance. Hilo had Waiakea’s number, beating the Warriors once in preseason and once in the regular season. Konawaena had Hilo’s number with two close wins on the west side. And Waiakea beat Konawaena twice in two meetings.
“If Hilo made it to the state level, I honestly think they’d make the final four,” Kauhi said.
The Snapple/HHSAA Girls Basketball State Championships begins on Feb. 4.