‘Top of the world’: Konawaena girls basketball wins first title

  • HHSAA tournament MVP Nancy Hoist, center, hugs teammate Kristin Kitaoka after Konawaena defeated Kahuku 51-41 to capture the state Division I girls basketball title. (West Hawaii Today/File Photo)

Editor’s note: While the sports world is shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, West Hawaii Today will look back every Tuesday at memorable sports moments on the Big Island.

Followers of BIIF girls basketball are used to the Konawaena Wildcats being dominant, year after year. The nine state titles, the most recent being 2018, speaks to that.

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Before 2004, however, that number of championships was zero. And not just for the girls basketball team — for all of Konawaena team athletics.

Wildcat stars such as Jessica Hanato, Nancy Hoist, and coach Bobbie Awa were the ones to change that.

On May 22, 2004, the Wildcats beat the Kahuku Red Raiders 51-41 to finish the season undefeated and win Konawaena’s first state championship.

“I’m on top of the world — this is really cool,” Hanato said in a May 23, 2004 West Hawaii today article. “We came back and never gave up. This was a great way to win this game.”

Hoist, a senior at Konawaena, scored 19 points in the title game. She was also named tournament MVP.

“It’s awesome — it’s such a perfect way to end the season and my time at Konawaena,” she said. “We got a little panicked in the second half, but we told ourselves to settle down and play our game.”

Konawaena led the Kahuku Red Raiders 30-10 at halftime, and were up 34-12 before Kahuku went on a 16-1 run to end the third quarter. The Wildcats only scored five points that quarter.

The fourth quarter also saw the Red Raiders keeping the game close.

“Karla Tailele, who sparked the Red Raiders’ comeback with her floor leadership, cut the lead to 42-39 with just over two minutes to play. Konawaena went up 46-41 on a lay-up from Hanato which was followed by two free throws by Hoist and another two by (Hina) Kimitete to secure the win.”

It was Konawaena’s third consecutive trip to the HHSAA playoffs. The year before, Hoist made 20 of 20 free throws over three games in the tournament.

Hoist and Hanato would later be elected to the HHSAA Hall of Honor.

The Wildcats would return to the championship game in 2005, only to lose to Punahou 52-50 in overtime. It wasn’t long after that the Wildcats would once again win the state title — two years later in 2007. And they would win again in 2009, ‘11, ‘12, ‘15, ‘16, ‘17 and ‘18, making the team one to be feared not just on the Big Island, but across Hawaii.

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Awa coached all those teams.

“I’m so pumped, so excited and so happy for the girls because they’ve worked so hard for this,” Awa said after the 2004 title game.

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