Honoka’a Earns Second Straight BIIF DII Title
The 2014-2015 version of the Honoka’a Dragons girls basketball team is younger and greener than the squad a year ago that won a state championship in Division II.
This year’s team knows how to work through adversity, though, overcoming a slow start and a rocky finish to defeat Kamehameha-Hawai’i 49-38 at Konawaena High School’s Onizuka Gymnasium to win the KTA Super Stores/Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II Girls Basketball Championship for a second consecutive year.
“All season long, we’ve been struggling with our slow starts and it came up again tonight,” said Honoka’a coach Daphne Honma. “That was one of the things we didn’t want to see happen and it happened.”
Honoka’a (11-13 overall, 10-2 BIIF) gave the ball away on each of its first four possessions, putting itself in a small hole early. Some of those turnovers were a result of a full-court pressure defense put on by the Warriors. Despite the early offensive woes, the Dragons’ defense found a way to turn the game around.
“All season long, our kids have kinda started to pick it up on the defensive end and we always said that if we can defend, we will be okay,” Honma said. “We just needed to pick up some stops and get our offense going.”
Kamehameha-Hawai’i (13-8, 8-4) suddenly hit a wall, struggling to move the ball in its half-court offense. The Warriors gave the ball away 14 times in the first half as Honoka’a brought out its man-to-man defense at half-court and pressured freshman point guard Saydee Aganus into a pair of five-second violations.
As promised, a strong defense produced a condifent offense, particularly from junior Kizzah Maltezo, who drained two second-quarter treys and scored 19 first half points to give the Dragons a 27-14 lead after the first 16 minutes of play.
“We’ve been waiting for her to have a breakout game, and she’s been wanting it so bad that at times, she’s forced the issue,” Honma explained. “Tonight, she let the game come to her, and that was huge for her.”
Maltezo scored a game-high 24 points, shooting 6-for-8 from the floor, 3-for-5 from beyond the arc, and 9-for-9 from the free throw line. She was the only player to reach double-digits in scoring for Honoka’a.
The Dragons held a double-digit lead for much of the second half, but Kamehameha-Hawai’i would not go away, cutting the lead as low as eight in the fourth quarter. Honoka’a aided the Warriors’ hopes, giving the ball away 11 times in the fourth quarter. For the game, the defending champions turned the ball over 28 times.
Key baskets kept Honoka’a afloat in the late stages. Junior Markell Marquez scored all six of her points late in the fourth quarter to keep the Warriors out of reach.
Riana Arima led Kamehameha-Hawai’i with 18 points and four rebounds. She shot 6-9 from the floor and 6-for-8 from the foul line. Makamae Gabriel added seven points, all in the second half. The Warriors were out-rebounded 21-11 by Honoka’a.
When asked about her team’s chances to repeat as state title winners, Honma pointed to a few characteristics that she feels could make a difference.
“They have perseverance,” Honma explained. “They’ve been plugging away at it and they have been very coachable. They listen to what we try to do and they work hard, so for these guys to finally see what we’re trying to do come together, it is like the light bulb going on and they are starting to get it.”
Both teams will participate in the New City Nissan/Hawai’i High School Athletic Association Girls State Basketball Championships on Oahu. Kamehameha-Hawai’i will play on Tuesday, while Honoka’a will get an opening-round bye and hit the floor on Wednesday.
Kamehameha-Hawai’i 7 7 9 15 – 38
Honoka’a 13 14 8 14 – 49