Behind Molina, big defensive effort, Konawaena gets fourth straight state title

  • BY CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL
    Konawaena won 47-32 against the Maryknoll Spartans. Pictured celebrating (l-r) is Konawaenas Tanniya Uchida (3), Mikayla Tablit (2) and Cherilyn Molina (11).
  • PHOTO BY CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL
    The Konawaena Wildcats celebrated winning the HHSAA Division I Girls Basketball State Championship.

HONOLULU — All that underdog noise? The Konawaena Wildcats were not having any of it.

With stifling defense, efficient offense and a whole lot of heart, Konawaena (15-0) captured its fourth consecutive HHSAA Division I championship and ninth overall with a 47-32 victory over Maryknoll on Saturday night at the Neal Blaisdell Center on Oahu.

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Washington State bound senior Cherilyn Molina saved her best performance for last as a Wildcat, amassing 22 points, eight rebounds and two steals. Mikayla Tablit added 15, while Caylie Kaupu and Tanniya Uchida combined for 10 in a contest that saw the Wildcats’ starters play all but seven minutes.

“We just wanted to go out hard,” Molina said on the OC16 broadcast after the game. “We heard the doubters and people calling us underdogs. We just wanted to make more history.”

Molina was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, while Tablit and Kaupu landed on the All-Tournament team.

With the win, Konawaena head coach Bobbie Awa distanced herself even more as the winningest girls coach in Hawaii high school history, with all nine of Konawaena’s titles during the dynastic run coming under her watch. The Wildcats also moved into a tie with Kamehameha-Kapalama for most consecutive championships.

Isabella Cravens was the only Maryknoll player to reach double-figures, recording a double-double with 11 points and 15 rebounds.

Coming into the contest, many had the Spartans (14-1) pegged as the overwhelming favorite, having defeated the Wildcats by a score of 56-37 in the preseason. This one played out quite differently.

The Spartans seemed to be rolling along before the half, taking a 22-17 lead into the break. However, the Wildcats were just down, never out.

The second half of the championship might go down as the most dominant stretch of basketball the girls tournament will ever see. The Wildcats held the high-scoring Spartans — which averaged 71 points in two previous tournament games — to just 10 second half points, shutting them out completely in the third quarter. Maryknoll shot a dismal 13 percent from the field in the second half.

“We just played with pace and didn’t force our shots. We stayed composed and ran our plays,” Molina said. “We played 110 percent.”

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Konawaena shot 32 free throws in the game, sinking 24 of them. Molina was 13-of-16 from the charity stripe, while her senior running-mate Tablit converted on 8-of-9.

Molina, Tablit and fellow starter Kawena Kaohimaunu are the three seniors the Wildcats will lose to graduation next season. It will also be the first time in six years that there won’t be a Molina on the roster (older sisters Chanelle and Celena graduated in 2016 and 2017, respectively).

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