Konawaena Perseveres to Win Fifth State Championship
Coming into the season, the Konawaena Wildcats were the clear favorite to cut down the nets in Honolulu on February 10. At times, the Wildcats looked like they would wilt under the pressure of the big stage, but the league’s division one champion showed tremendous resiliency in a come-from-behind 56-45 win over ILH champion Iolani, taking home the Hawaiian Airlines / HHSAA Girls State Basketball Division I Championship.
The victory gave Konawaena its fifth championship in the last nine seasons, and their third in the “era of dominance” behind graduating seniors Dawnyelle Awa and Lia Galdeira, who will be attending Washington State to play division one hoops in the Pac-12 conference.
The win also gave head coach Bobbie Awa her fifth state championship. “Every title is special, but…this was extra special for me because my daughter (Dawnyelle Awa) is a senior and she’s going off to college. It’s her last high school game, so it’s special for her to go out on top.”
Dawnyelle re-injured her right ankle in the end of the team’s semifinal win against Kahuku, and her mom said that she didn’t get to see her warm up during the game, but knew she was going to play. “I’m sure she was sore, but she kept saying ‘I’m okay’,” said the proud mom. “I think adrenaline goes, you start forgetting about the pain and start playing.”
In order for Konawaena to secure the state championship, they had to play from behind for a good portion of the game. Iolani took control of the game between the first and second quarters with a 9-0 run lasting 4:07 to give them a 19-10 lead midway through the second quarter. Abrianna Johnson-Edwards was a key spark plug for the Raiders before, during, and after the streak, scoring 12 points off the bench in the first half on 5-for-6 shooting, including a pair of threes.
Konawaena would cut into a deficit which was as high as 11 points with 1:34 left in the first half by finishing the half on a 6-0 run, capped off by a Hoku Liftee jump shot which beat the buzzer along the left side of the paint, cutting the Iolani lead to 26-21 at the break.
Konawaena continued to claw into the lead as the second half started, and as Iolani began to wilt under the heat of the Wildcats’ pressure defense, the top seed made their move. Konawaena put up a 10-0 run through the final 4:52 of the third quarter, sparked by the tag-team of Galdeira and Dawnyelle Awa, who combined for four points each during that run to give Kona a 36-32 lead after the third quarter.
Iolani ended that charge near the start of the fourth quarter when BYU-bound Kylie Maeda drained her third of four treys to pull Iolani within one. That would be as close as they would get, as Courtney Kaupu nailed a pair of jumpers to extend the lead back to five, and the defense did the rest of the work to cement the title for the Wildcats.
Can the so-called “dynasty” continue? Konawaena graduates five seniors from their championship squad: Amanda Varron, Makayla Awa, Lia Galdeira, Dawnyelle Awa, and Matelita Taumoefolau.
Iolani 13 13 6 13 – 45
Konawaena 10 11 15 20 – 56
Iolani: 17-39 FG (43.6%), 6-14 3PT (42.9%), 5-8 FT (62.5%)
Konawaena: 17-45 FG (37.8%), 2-13 3PT (15.4%), 20-22 FT (90.9%)
LEADING SCORERS: Iolani – Kylie Maeda 18, Abrianna Johnson-Edwards 14, Jade Botelho 5, Saphyre Rezentes 4, Taimane Passi 3, Pua Kahalehoe 1. Konawaena – Lia Galdeira 21, Dawnyelle Awa 12, Courtney Kaupu 10, Hoku Liftee 8, Makayla Awa 5.