HONOLULU — The Iolani Raiders are generally positionless, but their status is on a throne.
Iolani withstood everything the Konawaena dynasty brought to battle. Even after losing a 14-point lead, trailing by five points in the third quarter, the Raiders never wilted. They just grew stronger. The skill is across the roster. The savvy is, as well. The power, though, generates from sisters Lily Wahinekapu and Jovi Lefotu, who combined for 42 points, 10 rebounds and five steals as ‘Iolani made it back-to-back state titles with a thrilling 55-46 win over Konawaena on Saturday night at Blaisdell Arena.
In typical fashion, Raider defenders were all over the floor, challenging passes on the perimeter and in the post. Reserve Alexsandra Huntimer came up with a tip by lunging airborne during the third quarter, preventing high-scoring Caiyle Kaupu from getting another touch.
Iolani finished the season 25-2, losing only to Mater Dei (63-57) and Maryknoll (55-51). They had to overcome a major rally by Konawaena. It wasn’t perfection, but against a Konawaena team worthy of a title, the Raiders were quite close.
“We lost our early lead, but great teams are going to make a run. We survived it, still went into the half with a lead. We took their best punch in the mouth and were still standing,” coach Dean Young said. “It’s the toughness to just keep battling. They didn’t care they were down five. There was no panic. We sat them down, we’re fine, just stay patient. Work together, get good shots. Work together as a team, get stops. It takes a special group to do that.”
Wahinekapu, a junior, finished with 20 points, four rebounds and five steals. Jovi Lefotu, a sophomore, had 22 points, six boards, and she sank 8-for-9 at the foul line in the final quarter.
“We knew that their game plan was going to be similar to preseason, but I knew they would come out with more fire. We did a really good job with Caiyle and Kaliana (Salazar-Harrell), and we could’ve done better, but we got the win,” Wahinekapu said. “I feel really good. Really good.”
BIIF champion Konawaena (14-1) trailed 18-4, but scrapped back into the game with 10 second-quarter points by Kaupu, who finished with 19 after scoring 37 in the semifinals, and a couple of long-range bombs by sophomore Kayla Pak.
“Second quarter, I wanted to change our press, but I didn’t. That was my mistake,” Young said. “They got a little too comfortable breaking our press and we broke down defensively. We weren’t closing out on the shooters. We weren’t jump switching on the ball screens.”
The first time the Wildcats edged back in, Iolani clung to a 21-20 lead. Then Wahinekapu answered with a pull-up jumper and a 3, and the Raiders had a 26-24 lead at the break.
The Wildcats vaulted to a 33-28 lead behind consecutive corner 3s by freshman Braelyn Kauhi with 5:51 left in the third quarter.
“We had them right where we wanted to be,” said Konawaena co-coach Bobbie Awa, who has led the Wildcats to nine state titles and now four runner-up finishes. “Iolani had a great game plan.”
It was all Raiders after that.
Wahinekapu scored on a pass from Alexis Huntimer. Then the classic Iolani bucket: a steal by Kyra Tanabe, lead pass to Lefotu, who found Wahinekapu for another layup. After Wahinekapu sank two free throws with 4.6 seconds left the third, the Raiders led 36-35, capping an 8-2 run.
Just when Konawaena sophomore Kaliana Salazar-Harrell (10 points) began to heat up — her second 3-pointer tied the game at 38 — Iolani’s consistent attack began to pay off. Lefotu scored on an and-1 drive, and then hit the next eight free-throw attempts. It was Alexis Huntimer who swished 10-for-10 from the foul line in the final 4 minutes in the semifinals. This time Lefotu was the answer, and with foul shots by Huntimer and Wahinekapu, the Raiders were 12-for-14 from the charity stripe in the final quarter.
“The girls came a long way. Next year, we’ll be back here again,” Konawaena co-head coach Dawnyelle Awa said. “So will Iolani.”
Kaupu and Salazar-Harrell made the all-tournament team along with Waiakea’s Keeli-Jade Smith.
Waiakea 56, Kahuku 44: The BIIF runner-up Warriors won the third-place game at Blaisdell Arena to earn their best state finish before classification began in 2004.
Hawaii Baptist 37, Kamehameha-Hawaii 29: Nique Pacheco finished her high school career with 15 assists and five steals at Afook Chinen Civic Auditorium, as the BIIF champion Warriors finished fourth.
No other Kamehameha player mustered more than five points, though freshman Sarah Schubert grabbed 11 rebounds and was named to the all-tournament team.
Konawaena 2, Pearl City 2: Jadyn Hanks’ goal in the 75 minute helped the BIIF champion Wildcats secure a draw in the third place game on Oahu.
Zane Garrigan scored in the first half for No. 4 Konawaena (14-2-1), which was trying to match its BIIF-best third place finish from 2019.
On Friday in a 3-0 loss to eventual state champ Kamehameha-Kapalama in the semifinals, Konawaena goalkeeper Kyanah Blas helped keep the match scoreless through the first half, which featured a lengthy delay when Wildcats junior Finesity Salinas’ Gouveia was injured after a collision and had to be stabilized on the ground before being taken away in an ambulance.
Kalia Kalua scored twice during a two-minute span early in the second half, and Justice Colburn added a goal late in the match.
Konawaena, the only BIIF D-I team to reach a final four, fell to 0-3 in state semifinals.
Kamehameha-Hawaii 3, Waimea 0: Chenoa Frederick scored twice and Nanea Wong Yuen also had a goal Saturday as the BIIF runner-up Warriors (9-5-3) won the fifth-place match,
Waimea reached the final day of the tournament after being the final team to make the field. On Jan. 27, Waimea beat Honokaa 4-1 in a play-in game on Kauai.
After suffering a rare loss in the quarterfinals Thursday, Kamehameha rebounded Friday in consolation play, zapping Waianae 8-0, behind two first-half goals from Kastle Lyman. Sophia Wilson, Frederick, Kirstyn Mahaulu, Kawai Kauahi, Raeshalyn Respicio, Taylan Mangauil-Noah also scored.
In the first round Wednesday, Kamehameha beat Radford 6-0. Lyman and Nanea Wong Yuen score twice apiece and Frederick and Tabitha Pacheco also scored.