KEALAKEKUA — Kealakehe ran into a Wall in the BIIF Division I semifinals Tuesday night.
Well, three Walls to be exact in first-year Konawaena head coach Kaua Wall, senior standout Nalani Wall and junior Nanea Wall, who tallied a hat trick to lead the Wildcats to a 4-0 victory over the Waveriders.
“We played well tonight and this is really good for us. We have been through a lot the last few weeks,” Kaua Wall said. “Both teams played their hearts out all the way until the end.”
Jaymie Kunitomo added the other tally for the Wildcats (9-2-1) and Kyanah Blas recorded the shutout in net.
The Wildcats advance to play in the BIIF Championship game, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Julian Yates Field on Saturday.
Who Konawaena will see in the title game is still up in the air. Hilo and Waiakea were scheduled to battle at Hilo Bayfront on Tuesday afternoon, but the game was pushed to today due to heavy rain.
Konawaena beat Waiakea 1-0 in the regular season, and played to a draw with the two-time defending D-I champion Vikings. Since Konawaena was relegated to the White Division this season — the second of three in the BIIF — the Wildcats only saw their Red Division rivals once this year, making a title game against either foe a highly-anticipated affair.
“We worked out a lot of kinks and we are super excited to play in the championship,” Kaua Wall said. “We have been waiting a while for a rematch.”
With the win, the Wildcats also locked up a berth in the HHSAA state tournament, which starts with the first round on Feb. 5. The BIIF champion will likely get a seeded berth and a bye to the quarterfinals.
“We have a really young team so getting that experience will be key for us,” said Kaua Wall, citing her roster that features just three seniors and two juniors.
The Wildcats have missed the state tournament the last two seasons but advanced to the state semis in 2015, which was also the last time Konawaena brought home a BIIF title.
“It will be my first time and I’m really happy to go with these guys,” Nanea Wall said.
Senior Nalani Wall has been a primary goalscorer for the Wildcats, but Nanea Wall — who has been posted up on defense for a good part of the year — picked a good time for her first hat trick of the season.
“I couldn’t do anything if Kaiya Denis, the other center-back, didn’t cover for me,” Nanea Wall said. “We have been working on feeding each other really good balls and it all came together tonight.”
Kealakehe’s season is over at 4-7-1, but the campaign featured major improvement after missing the playoffs a year ago.
”I’m very proud of what they have done,” Kealakehe head coach Kim Evans said. “They have come a long way — some of them just started playing in the summer. We had several memorable games this season and they always played with a ton of heart.”
It was a very physical edition of the west-side rivalry, but the Wildcats held an overwhelming advantage in time of possession and scoring chances.
It started early, when Karenza Chavez ripped a shot off the ‘Riders right post just a few minutes in. The chance looked so good it had some anxious fans on their feet before the noise of the iron rang through the Kealakekua night.
The Waveriders would not get as lucky with the second Wildcat post. Nalani Wall rocketed a free kick off the crossbar from about 35 yards out that bounced straight down, high in the air, and was headed in by Nanea Wall to make it 1-0 less than 10 minutes in.
Kealakehe keeper Malia Moore had more than a handful of big saves to keep Kealakehe in the game, but Kunitomo drilled a short-range rocket that was destined for the back of the net to make it 2-0.
Nanea Wall added another goal to her stat line five minutes before half, launching a beautiful, arcing shot to the left corner of the net. She wrapped up her hat trick with 15 minutes to go in the contest.