'Aiea topples Kalaheo for state basketball title
|||Richardson can't hide the hurt following defeat|
|'Aiea players celebrate after upsetting Kalaheo for the state basketball title and avenging a 16-point loss to the Mustangs just five days earlier. Meanwhile, Kalaheo coach Chico Furtado, at left, consoles Heather Gonsalves.
Gregory Yamamoto The Honolulu Advertiser
By Kyle Sakamoto
Advertiser Staff Writer
For 'Aiea, revenge couldn't have been any sweeter.
Na Ali'i's Big Three of Kylee Nakamura, Aritta Lane and Keesha Aldridge combined for 44 points as unseeded 'Aiea defeated second-seeded Kalaheo, 52-45, in the final of the Hawaiian Airlines Girls State Basketball Championships last night before 2,044 at the Stan Sheriff Center.
|'Aiea's Keesha Aldridge grabs a rebound in front of Kalaheos Brandy Richardson. Aldridge and Aritta Lane each had 11 rebounds for Na Alii.
Gregory Yamamoto The Honolulu Advertiser
Nakamura, Lane and Aldridge are seniors and have been together on the varsity team since their sophomore years.
"This team has been playing together for three years now, and we noticed this year they are more focused, more mature," 'Aiea coach Fran Villarmia-Kahawai said. "They didn't break down."
'Aiea (14-1) slowed the tempo and hounded two-time state Player of the Year Brandy Richardson wherever she went.
"They were much more patient and spread the floor more," Kalaheo coach Chico Furtado said. "They didn't want us to have as many possessions as we had the other night."
On defense, Na Ali'i threw everything at Kalaheo (15-1).
"Defensively we did a little changing," Villarmia-Kahawai said. "We played man, zone, triangle, box, diamond. Kalaheo wasn't sure what to do."
Lane, who is 5 feet 11, and guards Joelle Sugai (5-1) and Jasmine Dias (5-2) took turns defending Richardson. Sugai and Dias pressured Richardson full court as she brought the ball up the floor.
"We noticed Brandy does everything for them," Villarmia-Kahawai said. "We wanted to tire her out before she goes off on us."
Richardson scored 13 of her tournament-low 16 points in the second half.
Na Ali'i also held a 36-19 rebounding advantage. Lane and Aldridge both finished with 11 rebounds and 14 points.
"Offensively, we did OK," Furtado said. "On the defensive end we did a very poor job of blocking out, and keeping their big people off the glass."
Na Ali'i looked to be in control with a 34-25 lead with 2:05 remaining in the third quarter. Lane, who sat out the final 5:35 of the first half after picking up her third foul, scored seven points in the quarter.
Kalaheo responded with a 12-2 run to take a 37-36 lead with 5:40 remaining. Richardson led the rally with nine points.
'Aiea went back up 43-37 with 4:15 to play, but Kalaheo scored the next five points and closed to 43-42 with 3:08 left.
Dias hit a 3-pointer, her only points of the game, with 2:50 remaining to start a game-ending 9-3 run. Na Ali'i's final six points came from the free-throw line.
"We're down one and the Dias girl hits the big 3," Furtado said. "Then we're chasing again. It seemed like every time we caught up, they hit a big shot or got a mini run going and we fell behind."
Prior to the 3-pointer, Nakamura, Lane and Aldridge had scored 41 of 'Aiea's 43 points.
'Aiea looked to be in trouble when Lane went to the bench in the second quarter, but the 5-foot-1 Nakamura took over. She scored all 10 of Na Ali'i's points in the quarter and finished with 16.
Said Villarmia-Kahawai: "This whole tournament Kylee has been focused. She has the green light as far as 3s are concerned."
There were five ties and five lead changes in the first half.
The stars of both teams went scoreless in the first quarter. Lane was 0-for-6 from the field and Richardson 0-for-3.
A basket by Noelani Colburn with three seconds remaining gave Na Ali'i a 13-9 lead after the first quarter.
Kalaheo took its first lead of the game at 14-13 on a 3-pointer by Nicole Furtado with 4:36 remaining in the half.
A field goal by Nakamura with 1:20 remaining gave 'Aiea a 23-20 halftime lead.
'Aiea ends a 14-year title reign by the private-school Interscholastic League of Honolulu. Kahuku is the only other O'ahu Interscholastic Association team to win a state title (1983).
"We've really developed as a team," Aldridge said. "Winning in our senior year, our last year, last chance ... I'll never forget this."
Meanwhile, Kalaheo lost in the finals for the third time in four years.