Wildcats Hold off KS-Hawai’i to Earn BIIF DI Crown
The goal is usually to have your team play its best when it gets to the league tournament in hopes of a state berth and a league championship.
Konawaena High School head coach Donny Awa believes his team is doing that. The Wildcats held off a late Kamehameha-Hawai’i surge to win the KTA Super Stores/Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division I Championship, prevailing by the final score of 51-49 at the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium.
“We have gotten better, and these two nights was the two best games we have put together all season,” Awa said after the game.
It was the top-seeded Warriors of Kamehameha-Hawai’i who had the early advantage, putting together a four-point posession when Bayley-Allen Manliguis missed the second of two free throws, but teammate Micah Kanehailua grabbed the offensive rebound and passed it out to Kaeo Batacan, who drilled a three-pointer to give Kamehameha-Hawai’i a 4-1 lead just 40 seconds into the game.
Both teams would trade the lead several times in the opening quarter, with the Warriors holding a 13-12 lead at the end of the first eight minutes. Konawaena would take the lead back for the rest of the half within the first 90 seconds of the next quarter when Austin Aukai went reverse underneath the rim to give Konawaena a 14-13 lead.
Bayley-Allen Manliguis was quieted in the first half because of early foul trouble, but hit a key trey early in the third quarter to tie the game at 23-23. Konawaena answered back with a 6-0 run to take a 29-23 lead with about 5:20 to play in the third, capped off by an Austin Ewing layup. Ewing, just a freshman, scored nine points on 4-for-7 shooting.
Sophomore Kamakana Ching played a key role off of the bench for the Wildcats. He scored a team-high 14 points, including six in the final frame. In transition, Ching took a pass from Cameron Howes and finished at the rim to extend the Wildcats’ lead to 41-33 early in the quarter.
“He’s just so athletic and long, and he actually rotated properly in the zone today, “Awa explained. “His rotations were good, and when he does that, he’s active and can control that whole middle. That gives us a shot blocker. On the offensive end, he moves well without the ball.”
Konawaena (16-10, 8-6) extended its lead to 10 points before Kamehameha-Hawai’i would make a late charge. Solomon Escalante hit a right-corner three ball with 2:42 remaining to cut the large lead down to 45-41. The sophomore scored 13 points on the evening.
Kamehameha-Hawai’i (16-13, 9-5) would cut it back down to a one possession game when Pukana Vincent hit a three pointer of his own to make the score 47-44 with 2:05 remaining. Both teams got a pair of points in their next possessions, but a turnover from Konawaena gave some added life to the Warriors.
Escalante missed an NBA-range three pointer with under 20 seconds remaining and committed a foul on the other end to keep Hauoli Akau from scoring a layup. Akau hit both free throws to push the lead back up to 51-46.
Manliguis quickly got the ball back and hit a fading trey from the right wing with :07.5 left to slim the Wildcats lead down to two at 51-49. Howes missed the front end of a one-and-one on the other end, and Manliguis’ last chance three point attempt missed short.
Manliguis, a junior, finished with 14 points, nine coming in the second half.
The Wildcats’ have just one senior in Kevin Medeiros and regularly rely on three freshman and two sophomores in its rotation. This young squad was forced to grow up in the a difficult, yet even league schedule.
“I told them [the team] before the game that we had already achieved more than most expected by getting to the state tournament, but if we could win, we could win a three-peat,” Awa said.
Konawaena out-rebounded the Warriors 27-18, hit half of its shots from the field (19-for-38), and shot 13-for-21 from the free-throw line.
Upon the conclusion of the game, the Hawai’i High School Athletic Association released the pairings for next week’s New City Nissan/HHSAA Division I Boys Basketball Championships. Konawaena was seeded fourth and will face either Kahuku or Moanalua on Thursday afternoon. The game will be played at Moanalua High School.
Kamehameha-Hawai’i will open with a matchup against Campbell at 5 p.m. Wednesday at McKinley High School. If the Warriors win, their opponent would be second-seeded Farrington.
Punahou claimed the top seed in the tournament, and Maui Interscholastic League champion Lahainaluna picked up the third seed.
Konawaena 12 11 14 14 – 51
Kamehameha-Hawai’i 13 7 13 16 – 49