Kalani captures state Division II crown
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|Division II Championship video|
|||Punahou back on top of state hoops, 61-39|
By Kyle Sakamoto
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Kyle Sakamoto
The Kalani girls basketball team played with poise, precision and perseverance to beat Kamehameha-Hawai'i, 58-51, in the final of the Hawaiian Airlines/HHSAA Girls Division II Basketball Championships last night.
Those qualities aren't usually found in a team playing in its first state title game in history, and especially against the defending state champion.
But with the deft ball handling and clutch free-throw shooting of Megan Kamehiro and Kacie Gushiken, the inside play of Mana Camara and the spark off the bench from Chloe Martin, Kalani was able to overcome the odds at McKinley High School.
"These kids will never quit," Kalani coach Darold Imanaka said. "They never, ever quit. They were so focused from the day we started. We put them through three-and-a-half hour practices, no complaints. What can you say? I'm at a loss for words."
Kamehiro scored 16 points, Gushiken added 11, and Camara had 10 points and nine rebounds for Kalani, the O'ahu Interscholastic Association champion and No. 1 seed.
The Falcons surged ahead with a 15-2 run for a 21-11 lead with 5:58 left in the first half. Reserve guard Martin sparked the run with a 3-pointer and baseline jumper. Violet Alama added six points during the spurt.
Kamehameha-Hawai'i got within four points three times in the second half — the last coming with 4:18 left in the game.
But Kalani (15-1) made 17 of 18 free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter to hold off the Warriors, the Big Island Interscholastic Federation champion and No. 2 seed.
"The philosophy of foul them, they miss their free throws and you get the ball back, didn't work tonight," Kamehameha-Hawai'i coach Kimo Miller said.
For the game, the Falcons finished 25 of 28 from the line.
"Our coaches keep telling us it's about being relaxed out there. Do your thing, trust what you got," said Kamehiro, who finished 8 of 8 from the line.
Kamehiro also had four rebounds, three assists, two steals and blocked high-scoring Warriors guard Leilani Galdones twice in the first quarter.
"Megan is Megan," Imanaka said. "You saw her defense, she capped people. That's Megan. She's an all-around player."
Kamehiro, the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, found herself with both recently cut down nets after the game.
"I don't know, I ended up with both of them. Nobody else wants it," she said.
Kalani committed only four of its 13 turnovers in the second half against a pressure man-to-man defense.
"Our team is just close; we're all tight, we're like sisters,"said Gushiken, who made one field goal in the first quarter and 9 of 10 free-throw attempts in the fourth. "We just go all out for each other, it's all for everybody else, and the fans and everybody else."
Kalani finished fourth last season, its highest ever in history. "Last year we stepped in the door, this year we cleaned house," said Imanaka, in his second year as coach.
The Falcons came back this season eager to reach the title game.
"We've been working for this since June," Kamehiro said. "After the season was done last year, we wanted to come back this year and win it all. We prepared and it showed tonight."
The coaches last night were familiar with each other, having both worked together as assistants at Punahou School.
"Kimo is an awesome coach and a class act," Imanaka said. "Before the game he came up to me and I never heard a coach tell me this. He said 'If you win I'll be so happy for you.' That's class."
Kamehameha-Hawai'i (12-4), which trailed by as many as 12 late in the first half, got back in the game by switching from a 1-3-1 zone to a man-to-man.
"The man helped us out a little bit," Miller said. "We felt the 1-3-1 was OK, but they drove on us and took advantage of us. The man worked out better, but we couldn't get over the hump."
Kamehameha-Hawai'i was led by Jamie Mattos, who scored 20 points on 7 of 10 shooting from the field and 6 of 8 from the foul line. She kept the Warriors in the game in the first half by scoring 10 consecutive points for her team.
"She is the type of player every coach wants," Miller said. "The one that takes over the game. She wants the ball and there aren't that many girls that have that resolve in them."
Reach Kyle Sakamoto at email@example.com.