Caiyle Kaupu shows it more with action than words.
Kaupu taps her right hand over her heart. Down to six players after injuries to two teammates, the Konawaena Wildcats got a 5-foot jump hook from Kaupu with 5.1 seconds left to edge Kamehameha 44-43 on Saturday night at the Matsumoto Law Group Black & Gold Classic.
The go-ahead bucket was an exercise in patience by the Wildcats. No rushing. No improv in traffic.
“It’s discipline. It’s a normal play,” said Kaupu, who finished with 18 points. “I already knew the double team was coming. She was trying to take a charge, but I stopped instead of running her over.”
That capped an impressive tourney for Konawaena, which posted wins over three ILH teams: Punahou, Maryknoll and now, Kamehameha.
“We’re thankful to Bob (Morikuni, McKinley’s athletic director) for inviting us to play in this tournament with some of the best teams in the state,” Wildcats coach Bobbie Awa said.
Kaupu committed to UC Irvine during the offseason, showing the skill of a wing and the strength of a post through her first three seasons as a Wildcat. This week, the heat and humidity could have melted down most teams playing with roster numbers this low. It seemed to have an effect in Konawaena’s fourth game in as many days, but the Wildcats found ways to compete despite fatigue.
“We played through it. We’re not giving up. You’ve got to dig deeper. We have to dig deeper at times like that,” Kaupu said.
Lagi Sua-Godinet, Kaupu’s counterpart in the paint, finished with a team-high 13 points for the Warriors. Malie Marfil, who signed a letter-of-intent with Alaska-Anchorage last week, added 10.
Konawaena faced adversity through the week, arriving in Honolulu without two players who are academically ineligible. They still managed to go 3-1.
“It’s like any other game. You just got to play. You’ve got to be able to handle it all,” Kaupu said.
On Wednesday, the ‘Cats got 20 points from Kaupu and 14 from sophomore Kaliana Salazar Harrell in a 57-42 win over Punahou.
On Thursday, the Wildcats lost one player to a concussion and could not keep up with defending state champion ‘Iolani in a 54-26 loss.
Maryknoll’s uptempo game and deep, talented roster seemed to have the upper hand going into a matchup with Konawaena on Friday. Instead, the Wildcats got 24 points from Salazar Harrell, including 20 after halftime, for a stunning 57-39 win. Kaupu added 14 in the victory.
“We play our game, We’re not going to try to play the other team’s game. We run and get in transition, but we’re not going to press. We don’t have the numbers,” Awa said.
Saturday’s showdown with Kamehameha, which reached the state final last season, seemed to be more like the Maryknoll runaway. Down 14-4, the Wildcats began to claw back. Along the way, however, guard Rebekah Fong suffered an injury to her left knee shortly after scoring on a steal. The Wildcats took an 18-17 lead on Braelyn Kauhi’s foul-line jumper, and extended the lead on a layup by Kaupu.
The game remained nip and tuck, but after Grace Hing hustled downcourt after a deflection, she hit Kaupu, who splashed a 22-foot trey from the top for a 32-25 Konawaena lead. That had McKinley students sitting behind the Wildcats’ basket jumping and cheering for the team in white and kelly green.
“We could hear them. We didn’t even know who they are,” Kaupu said.
The Warriors inched within five, Hing lateraled a pass to Salazar Harrell for a wing 3, and after Salazar Harrell drove for a layup, Konawaena led 40-30 with 5 minutes remaining.
The Warriors chipped away and brought the lead down to 42-38 with 2 minutes to play. Maddison Mangalo’s trey cut the lead to one point with 1:05 left.
Marfil then chased down an errant inbounds pass by Kaupu, intended for Salazar Harrell, for a layup to give the Warriors a 43-42 lead with 50 seconds left.
“I shouldn’t have thrown the ball. As soon as I let it go, I knew,” Kaupu said.