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Konawaena Erases Late Deficit to Gain State Berth

January 30, 2016, 10:06 AM HST
* Updated January 30, 10:11 AM
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Hilo's Alexis Pana holds on to the basketball against pressure from Konawaena's Cherilyn Molina (33) and Celena Molina (22). Photo credit: Jared Fujisaki

Hilo’s Alexis Pana holds on to the basketball against pressure from Konawaena’s Cherilyn Molina (33) and Celena Molina (22). Photo credit: Jared Fujisaki

There have been very few times in the last eight years that Konawaena High School’s girls basketball team has been taken to the brink of defeat in Big Island Interscholastic Federation competition.

Friday night was one of those nights.

Ihi Victor’s transition basket and foul with less than 90 seconds left in the game put Konawaena ahead of Hilo for good, giving the top-ranked Wildcats a narrow 46-39 victory over fifth-ranked Hilo in the final game of the league regular season for both schools.

With the victory, Konawaena won the BIIF regular season championship outright, which comes with an automatic berth to the OC16/Hawai’i High School Athletic Association Girls Basketball Championships, held Feb. 9-12 on Oahu. The Wildcats also earned the top seed in next week’s BIIF Girls Basketball Tournament, held at the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium from Feb. 5-6.

“It was good that we got to face something like this going into the state tournament,” said veteran Konawaena head coach Bobbie Awa. “It was nice to know that we have a berth and we don’t have to fight for one [at the BIIF tournament].”

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Hilo (20-2 overall, 9-1 BIIF) led 39-38 with 1:40 remaining, following a made free throw from Chanelle Molina. Instead of running time down on offense, the Vikings took a quick shot from the right wing, a missed three-pointer from Faith Loeak. It led to a transition opportunity for Konawaena and the go-ahead basket for Victor, who returned after missing several games with a back injury.

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Victor’s basket, plus the made free throw, put Konawaena ahead 41-39 with 1:24 left to play. The next time down, Hilo turned the ball over on an inbounds pass, allowing the Wildcats to start putting the game away at the free throw line. Earlier in the quarter, they also forced two turnovers on five-second ballhandling violations

Awa credited her team’s defense for paving the way to the gutty win. “I thought our girls did a good job of covering five second counts that they were going to get. The girls did very good.”

It was Hilo that opened the game with a hot start, scoring the game’s first five points on an Alexis Pana three-pointer and Sharlei Graham-Bernisto steal and layup with 5:45 to go in the opening period. Foul trouble immediately slowed the Vikings’ momentum, however, as both players were saddled with deep foul trouble early in the first half.

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The second quarter belonged to sophomore Cherilyn Molina, the youngest of the talented Molina sisters. She scored 12 of her game-high 20 points in the second, including back-to-back treys,

Konawaena (21-1, 10-0) controlled the pace going into the fourth quarter, but turnovers kept the game in reach for Hilo. The Wildcats gave the ball away eight teams in the fourth quarter and shot just 1-for-3 in the final eight minutes, allowing the Vikings to charge back. With the game tied at 37-37, Pana gave the Vikings the lead with just over three minutes remaining with her basket, giving the Vikings their first lead since early in the second quarter.

Pana, in her final regular season game, scored a team-high 13 points and 3-for-6 shooting from beyond the arc. The Vikings shot 7-for-18 from three-point range, including Graham-Bernisto’s three treys. She finished with 11 points.

Victor scored 13 points. Chanelle Molina scored seven in her first game back since an ankle injury suffered last December in the Title IX Classic.

Konawaena extended its BIIF winning streak to 90 consecutive games, dating back to its last loss against Waiakea in 2008.

Friday’s home game for Hilo was also senior night for Pana, Graham-Bernisto, Ciera Keli’i, Shaylyn Guthier, Loeak, Jessica Caro, and Jennifer Caro. Despite the loss, the Vikings hope to have one more chance to knock off Konawaena. That could come at the league championship game next Saturday, if both teams make it, at the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium.

Konawaena 7 20 8 11 – 46

Hilo 10 8 11 10 – 39

BIIF girls basketball scoreboard

Konawaena 46, Hilo 39

Honoka’a 39, Kamehameha-Hawai’i 30

Waiakea 48, Kea’au 31

Kealakehe 48, Hawai’i Preparatory Academy 13

BIIF boys basketball scoreboard

Ka’u 74, Laupahoehoe 34

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