Honoka`a Dominates KS-Hawai`i To Win First State Girls Hoops Title
For the third straight season, the Hawaiian Airlines / Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II Girls Basketball State Championship trophy is returning to the Big Island.
This year, however, the trophy will reside up country in Honoka`a.
Behind a dominant 24-point, 12-rebound performance from senior Hunter Liftee, the Dragons knocked off two-time defending state champion Kamehameha-Hawai`i 54-35 Saturday at the Neal Blaidell Center. Honoka`a captured its first state championship in girls basketball, avenging last season’s loss to the Warriors in the state title game.
When asked about how she was able to put together the double-double, Liftee said it was about “wanting it so badly.”
“It’s my last year and everything and I wanted to make history for the first time ever for Honoka`a to win,” Liftee said after the game.
Liftee drained her first three shots of the game, all in the first quarter, battling an equally strong start in the quarter from Kamehameha-Hawai`i forward Casey Poe. The Dragons led 10-8 after the first quarter.
The rest of the Dragons stepped up in the second quarter to extend its advantage going into halftime. Eliyah Fernandez scored all five of her points in the second quarter while guard Shemika Frazier added four more. Liftee, while not making a field goal in the quarter, drained all four of her free throws in the period to help Honoka`a take a 25-14 lead.
Kamehameha-Hawai`i (21-9 overall, 11-5 BIIF/HHSAA) struggled to get its supporting pair involved on the scoreboard. Riana Arima and Makamae Gabriel combined to score just four points on 2-for-10 shooting in the opening 16 minutes while Poe scored the rest of the team’s 10 points.
Honoka`a (26-10, 14-2) moved the ball around to create mismatches inside, opening up opportunities for Liftee in the paint. She scored 11 of her 24 points in the third period on 5-for-7 shooting. For the game, she shot 9-for-12 from the floor and 6-for-9 from the free throw line.
Poe, playing in her fourth and final state championship game, fought vigorously to keep Kamehameha-Hawai`i in the game, scoring seven of her team high 19 points in the third quarter, but foul trouble began to sink in. She picked up her third late in the quarter and ended up fouling out late in the fourth. She finished with seven steals and eight rebounds to cap off her high school career.
Kamehameha-Hawai`i shot 1-for-8 in the fourth quarter, which was dominated by free throw shooting from both teams. With the game out of reach, Honoka`a coach Daphne Honma emptied her bench to give rarely used varsity players and junior varsity additions a chance to savor the championship moment.
For Honma, who returned to lead the girls basketball program after assisting the men’s program last season, the accomplishment means a lot to her, but she credits the effort of her players for making it possible.
“It feels really good, but actually, I’m more happy and more proud for our kids than anything else,” Honma said after cutting down the Blaisdell nets. “It’s all of their hard work and their buying into our program and the system and the belief in each other, the belief in themselves, that’s made this such a great culminating win for them.”
The Dragons took just 29 shots in the game, making 17 of them to shoot just under 59 percent from the field. From the free throw line, Honoka`a shot 20-for-28, 71.4 percent. The Dragons also out-rebounded KS-Hawai`i 32-23.
Chancis Fernandez, an All-Tournament Team selection, scored 12 points, six in the fourth quarter, to help pace Honoka`a.
Liftee was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Poe and Arima of Kamehameha-Hawai`i joined Fernandez on the All-Tournament Team.
Kamehameha-Hawai`i 8 6 13 8 – 35
Honoka`a 10 15 16 13 – 54
Hawaiian Airlines / HHSAA Division II Girls Basketball Championships – All-Tournament Team
Chancis Fernandez, Honoka`a
Riana Arima, Kamehameha-Hawai`i
Casey Poe, Kamehameha-Hawai`i
Carly Kakuda, Kalani
Penina Faumui, Farrington
Most Outstanding Player – Hunter Liftee, Honoka`a