BIIF basketball: Konawaena girls battling to stay healthy

KAILUA-KONA — Konawaena is a team that is struggling.

KAILUA-KONA — Konawaena is a team that is struggling.

No, they are not struggling to score points, nor are they struggling to hold teams defensively, as evident by the Wildcats 81-15 victory over west side rival Kealakehe at Waverider Gym on Friday night. Konawaena is certainly not struggling in the win column. The Wildcats are currently riding a BIIF winning streak which has stretched to over 90 games.

What Konawaena is struggling with, however, is the ability to remain healthy, something that also plagued the team last year and eventually led head coach Bobbie Awa to disband the JV squad to pull more players up the varsity team.

This year, while the circumstances have not forced the loss of the JV squad just yet, the team is getting near the breaking point when it comes to injuries. The main culprit — sprained ankles. At least three members of the varsity squad are battling the injury, which seems to have become an epidemic.

To make matters worse, because of the small number of varsity players — the Wildcats dress anywhere from five to seven players a game — many of those who are suffering from a milder case of the injury are having to fight through the pain while limping down the court.

“It has been pretty tough but we have to play with what we have,” Konawaena head coach Bobbie Awa said after Friday’s game. “There is really not much time to heal because we are in the heat of our season. We have games every week and within a month or so the season will be over.”

Standout guard Cherilyn Molina is out with a sprained ankle and was out of action on Friday. She had the opportunity to be cleared of the injury earlier in the week, but she also picked up a cold, sidelining her for the game against Kealakehe.

“Cherilyn is doing alright, but is still healing,” Awa said. “There is not much you can do about it. It happens.”

Molina’s older sister, Celena Molina, knows all about the pain of dealing with a sprained ankle. Celena has been injured off-and-on since suffering a severe sprain during volleyball season. Only time off can help fully heal her injury, but with back-to-back sports seasons, time off is hard to come by.

Two other injured Wildcat players, Tayvia Cabatbat and Tanniya Uchida, have both been playing through their injuries. Cabatbat was the most recent player to suffer an ankle sprain, getting injured before the team started their recent play in the World Youth Basketball Tournament.

“They just have to try to recover as fast as they can by icing and staying off their feet when they are not on the court,” Awa said. “But they are teenagers. Getting them to stay off their feet is hard to do.”

The Wildcats did benefit from a light week between Christmas and New Years. With only 13 girls total between JV and varsity, every little bit of down time helps.

The hardest part about having such few numbers is not being able to sub in players when needed. Without subs, the chance for fatigue and then injury increases.

There is not a lot the coaching staff can do during games to help solve the problem, except perhaps burning a timeout or two to let the kids get a breather.

“We have trouble calling timeouts. We like to let the girls play,” Awa said jokingly. “But we can also run our sets and slow the game down to get them a breather.”

The Wildcats work their way into the heart of the basketball season after the New Year. Next up for Konawaena is Ka’u on Wednesday, followed by Honokaa on Saturday.