By Paul Honda
It was a demonstration of basketball knowledge.
It was also a live example of carnage, predator feasting on prey. In this case, there was no blood or gnashing of teeth. It was just Konawaena’s girls basketball team completely ravaging a Kapolei squad that had more turnovers (31) than field goals.
It was a 59-31 win for Konawaena in a game that easily could’ve been a bigger blowout, but the Wildcats wisely saved their legs for the semifinal round of the Hawaiian Airlines/HHSAA Girls Basketball State Championships.
Konawaena’s ability to trap at will — coach Bobbie Awa doesn’t set specific areas for double teams — is something few teams in the Hawaiian Airlines/HHSAA Girls Basketball State Championships can fully prepare for. Because Awa leaves the decision-making to her players, they figure it out. They are still, nearly motionless when teams inbound the ball in the backcourt, and out of straight man coverage, the Wildcats swarm on ballhandlers who lose vision of the entire floor.
Twenty-five steals — even though Konawaena sat its starters for a large chunk of the second half — might be a record. What’s almost as impressive is that officials recognized what was going on — great defensive work with footwork and careful reaching when the Hurricanes offered the ball — and let a superb lock-down defense do its thing.
More post-game thoughts:
• Dawnyelle Awa has been a complementary player — a Scottie Pippen-like jack of all trades — in years past. This season, with Lia Galdeira out with a shoulder injury for most of the regular season, Awa emerged as an alpha baller. Her 3-point shot is deadly, her swooping drives surprise defenders and watchers alike, and yet, she hasn’t completely become a full-tilt attacker.
“I told her she needed to be more aggressive. She passed up a drive one time. Another time, she didn’t run the break with Lia,” Bobbie Awa said of her daughter. “But she picked it up. That’s the main thing.”
• Galdeira was simply amazing with 13 steals. If they wanted, the ‘Cats could’ve gotten 30 steals from the explosive sophomore. One of her best skills since emerging as a sterling eighth-grader in age-group tournaments has been her ability to read and cover in space, much like a free safety on the gridiron.
In fact, she was a stud Pop Warner player and entertained thoughts of playing at the high school level. It’s been done before in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation. But the shoulder injury lingers and football will not be her ticket to college. She and Awa (seven steals, 17 points) are both playing at a higher level already. It’s a matter of time before they get Division I offers.
• Coach Awa supplemented her roster — it was bigger than last year’s nine-player lineup — by adding five junior-varsity players. All five saw playing time by the middle of the third quarter with Konawaena up 51-12.
“That was good. We wanted them to be part of the atmosphere,” Coach Awa said. “They were a little bit nervous but still did well.”
Sitting out with the shoulder injury for some time this season, Galdeira saw the JV players in action both on the court and as helpers for the varsity.
“We had our JV players in there. They did good,” she said. “They work hard.”
• The budget-conscious BIIF — a bus rental from Kona to Hilo can cost up to $600 per round trip — went back to its geographical alignments this school year. That meant Konawaena didn’t play the league’s other ranked team, Waiakea, until the playoffs. Konawaena saw it coming and scheduled a lot of stiff competition in December, picking up a pair of wins over eventual Maui Interscholastic League champion Lahainaluna, and wins over ‘Iolani both in Honolulu and Kealakekua, where Konawaena High School is located.
“Preseason was fun,” Galdeira said. “(Regular season) was not fun for us. We only played the West side.”
Most of the West Division teams in the BIIF are Division II both in enrollment size and talent level, at least this year. It’s been a long time since Kohala girls basketball was a powerhouse, maybe going back to the Annette Marquez era of the 1990s. Kealakehe continues to struggle despite a large enrollment and the availability of public facilities. Hawaii Prep is a solid D-II program. Honokaa has been competitive, but not quite the same since Keisha Kanekoa (UH) graduated.
• The Wildcats traveled on Monday and didn’t practice. They got a workout in on Tuesday morning.