Defense helps Honoka'a edge Kamehameha, 33-26
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By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Wes Nakama
Honoka'a earned a return trip to the Hawaiian Airlines/HHSAA Girls Basketball State Championship semifinals last night, grinding out a 33-26 victory over Kamehameha.
The No. 3 seed and Big Island Interscholastic Federation champion Dragons (13-1) will face No. 2 seed and O'ahu Interscholastic Association champ Roosevelt (15-1) at 6 tonight at Stan Sheriff Center.
In a game featuring two of the state's top guards — Honoka'a's Keisha Kanekoa and Kamehameha's Tatri Lorenzo — the Dragons got crucial offensive support from junior wing Jessika Lorenzo (11 points, four rebounds) and senior post Wila Lavea (10 points, eight rebounds) to hold off the Interscholastic League of Honolulu runner-up Warriors (11-5).
Kamehameha closed to 27-25 after Kaui Todd's layup with 3:33 remaining, but Honoka'a responded with six free throws down the stretch to seal it.
"We did it by playing tough 'D' like we usually do," Jessika Lorenzo said. "To us, defense is pride."
The Dragons needed the extra effort because Kanekoa, who was an Advertiser All-State first-team selection last year as a sophomore, struggled through a tough shooting night (3 of 15 from the field). They took a 10-6 lead after one period and went up 15-14 at the half after Jessika Lorenzo swished all three of her 3-point attempts.
Kanekoa, meanwhile, was 0 for 4 from beyond the arc and was scoreless after two quarters.
"Jessika's been stepping it up since the regular season," Honoka'a coach Daphne Honma said. "She's had to play a bigger role lately."
Said Lorenzo: "My coaches always tell me to keep shooting, even if I miss, because that's what good shooters do. We knew Keisha would score in the second half, because she usually pumps us up."
Kanekoa finally got going with a short jumper two minutes into the third period, and she finished with nine points, eight rebounds and four steals while also drawing the tough defensive assignment on the Warriors' Lorenzo, an explosive senior who led Kamehameha with nine points.
"Keisha doesn't need to score to make a difference," Honma said. "She's our floor leader, and she does so many other things. Just her presence, just having her on the court, helps us a lot."
Warriors coach Clay Cockett said his team's poor free-throw shooting (2 of 10) and the Dragons' defense were key factors.
"Honoka'a showed us a different kind of intensity, and we were unable to match it," Cockett said.
The Dragons also were 12 of 17 (70 percent) from the line.
"Two things we stress are free throws and layups," Honma said. "If we can at least make our free throws and layups, we should be OK."
Reach Wes Nakama at email@example.com.