MANOA — Skye Ah Yat's game-winning basket with eight seconds left pushed Saint Francis past defending Division II state champion Hawaii Baptist, 47-46 at Saint Francis' gymnasium Wednesday night.
The Saints improved to 6-0 in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu's Division II play to remain undefeated and tied with Mid-Pacific at the top of the league standings.
Saint Francis entered the fourth quarter up by two and led for most of the period.
Taking advantage of the absence of the Eagles' starting center, the Saints used their size to crash the offensive boards and get to the free throw line, with 15 trips to the charity stripe in the final period alone.
Ah Yat got the ball inside and drew fouls on three consecutive possessions, sinking all six free throw attempts and giving the Saints their largest lead of the night at 41-36 with three minutes remaining.
Saint Francis coach Chris Hoe explained that free throws are something that the team regularly works on.
"We do, we do. Sometimes we don't hit them like this so I think that it was meant to be. Again, credit to the girls for concentrating and just getting into their routine when they shoot free throws."
As Saint Francis seemed to be pulling away, the reigning ScoringLive All-Hawaii Division II Player of the Year, Ally Wada, brought HBA right back.
Wada, who had a slow start, hit two back-to-back 3-pointers for the Eagles, putting her team ahead by one. However, a layup by Olivia Vaeatangitau and two more free throws by Kaimi Kalei put Saint Francis back ahead by three with 2 minutes remaining.
Wada responded with her third consecutive 3-pointer from straight away, tying the game at 45.
Saint Francis was unable to score on their next possession and the ball was back in Wada's hands, where she drew a foul and hit a clutch free throw to make it a one-point game with 28 seconds left.
Ah Yat and her teammates used the emotion from the close game to motivate themselves.
"It got us more excited than nervous, it made us keep going, keep pushing," said Ah Yat." We told each other, it's our time, it's our time, and you know we got each others backs and we're never going to give up on each other."
The Saints stuck with their game plan. Ah Yat was given the ball deep in the post and drew a foul. She missed both free throws but her teammates were able to retain possession.
After a missed shot attempt, Ah Yat returned the favor, muscling her way to another offensive rebound and sinking the game-winning layup with eight seconds remaining.
HBA had a chance to win it in the closing seconds, but Wada's three-point attempt came up short as time expired.
"We gave it all that we got, you know," said Ah Yat. "We practice hard and we just never gave up."
Hoe explained the benefits of the win for his team moving forward.
"I think as coaches we've always believed in them, we felt like we could've don't this even last year, but it's the girls believing," said Hoe. "So to win a game against a team like HBA, which is a fantastic team…it's just a huge confidence builder for our team."
HBA assistant coach Alan Matsui explained that he hopes his team uses this loss to get away from complacency when facing a deficit.
"It's something that, like I told the team, a loss, if you use it as motivation to get better and learn from your mistakes you can go a lot farther," said Matsui. "A win in a situation like that you get complacent, you feel like you can always come back. We did that on the mainland for three games, so I think that was part of it."
Wada led all scorers with 18 points for HBA and Olivia Vaeatangitau led Saint Francis with 14.
The Eagles dropped their second league game and fell to 4-2.
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