Big Island: Top sports stories of 2015

KONAWAENA TOPS IN GIRLS BASKETBALL, AGAIN

KONAWAENA TOPS IN GIRLS BASKETBALL, AGAIN

Konawaena — the most dominant girls basketball program in Hawaii for more than a decade — claimed its sixth HHSAA girls basketball title in school history by knocking off Lahainaluna 51-41.

Chanelle Molina led the way, scoring 27 points and grabbing eight rebounds in the championship game.

The victory also made Konawaena head coach Bobbie Awa the winningest coach in tournament history with six titles, surpassing Kamehameha’s Al Apo.

The Wildcats finished a busy season 31-1 and gained national prominence, finishing No. 17 in the MaxPreps

Xcellent 25 rankings. With multiple returning players this season, the expectations are sky high in 2016.

CHANELLE MOLINA MAKES HER DECISION, COMMITS TO WAZZU

Chanelle Molina mulled more than two-dozen scholarship offers from Division I schools across the country, but ultimately decided to commit to Washington State University. Molina, currently a senior at Konawaena, was the most highly sought after girls basketball prospect in the state, having garnered college interest since her freshman year as a Wildcat.

“We come from a small town, and Hawaii is a small state,” Molina said. “There are not many people who get an opportunity like this. I just feel blessed.”

BJ PENN INDUCTED INTO UFC HALL OF FAME

Hilo native BJ Penn, who held both the UFC welterweight (170 pounds) and lightweight (155) belts during his sto-ried 13-year-career, retired in 2014, but was immortalized when he was induct-ed into the UFC Hall of Fame this year.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling for me to be recognized like this. It’s validation for my career, and it’s an incredible honor,” Penn said.

FRODENO, RYF CRUISE TO IRONMAN TITLES

Jan Frodeno pounded through the 2.4-mile ocean swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile marathon run in 8 hours, 14 minutes, 40 seconds for his first IRONMAN world title.

Daniela Ryf, of Switzerland, secured her first women’s title in dominant fashion, giving credence to all the prerace hype with a time of 8:57:57.

HAWAII PREP GRAD MAX UNGER INVOLVED IN BIGGEST TRADE OF NFL OFFSEASON

After two consecutive trips to the Super Bowl and multiple Pro Bowl selections, the Seattle Seahawks shipped Unger and a first-round draft choice to New Orleans in exchange for star tight end Jimmy Graham.

In hindsight, the trade of the summer didn’t have the implications it initially seemed it would. Graham had a hard time fitting in with the Seahawks offense, before eventually having his season end with a torn patellar tendon. After going down, Russell Wilson and company got going on a torrid streak to overcome a slow start, locking up a playoff spot.

Unger brought leadership to the Saints, but it was not enough, as he will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

QUINTIN TORRES-COSTA TAKEN IN MLB DRAFT

The Milwaukee Brewers picked up former Waiakea left-hander Quintin Torres-Costa in the 35th round of the MLB draft. In all, eight players with Hawaii ties were drafted.

HAWAII FIRES NORM CHOW; NICK ROLOVICH HIRED

Hawaii’s worst home defeat in program history was the last under Norm Chow. Chow was fired as football coach, a day after a 58-7 loss to Air Force.

The 69-year-old Chow was 10-36 during his time at the helm of Hawaii.

UH hired Nick Rolovich, a former quarterback for the Rainbow Warriors, as Chow’s replacement in Novemeber.

KEALAKEHE GRAD ELI PLAYS BIG FOR RAINBOW WARRIORS

While Hawaii had a down year, finishing 3-10, Asotui Eli’s consistent play earned him a big role on Hawaii’s offensive line.

Eli — a 2014 Kealakehe grad — was one of only two freshman offensive linemen in the Mountain West to start 12 games. Eli started 11 games at center and one at right guard.

KONAWAENA FOOTBALL HAS HISTORIC YEAR

What a year it was for Wildcat football in 2015.

Konawanea knocked off Kamehameha-Hawaii for its fourth BIIF Division II title in five years, and defeated Damien for the pro-gram’s first ever HHSAA state tournament victory before falling to eventual state champion Radford 48-46 in the state semifinals.

Sophomore quarterback Austin Ewing was named the BIIF Division II Offensive Player of the Year, Cameron Howes captured Defensive Player of the Year, and coach Brad Uemoto earned Coach of the Year in his first season at Konawaena.

In Division I, Hilo overcame adversity when head coach Dave Baldwin was placed on indefinite leave before the season and knocked off Kealakehe for a BIIF title three-peat.

TWICE AS NICE FOR HONOKAA IN GIRLS HOOPS

The Dragons got the job done, beating Hawaii Baptist 33-31 to repeat as the state and BIIF champions.

Shayla Ignacio (right) finished with a game-high 13 points.

After its sustained run in Division II, Honokaa moved up to Division I this season.

HAWAII PREP REELS OFF HAWAII PREP REELS OFF

Hawaii Prep went back-to-back in style, pulling away to beat Mid-Pacific 5-1 to repeat as HHSAA Division II girls soccer champions on Oahu.

Marlie Mandaguit (right) won the OC16 Impact Player of the Game, scoring twice.

GRAND YEAR FOR FISHING

Six granders were caught around the Big Island, five off Kona. Two were over 1,300 pounds.

The year started with 16-year-old Kai Rizzuto (above) landing a 1,058-pound blue marlin in February.