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Prep Football Preview Special
Prep Football Preview
Game of the Week
Kalani Takase | ScoringLiveFebruary 19, 2022, 12:55am
Fri, Feb 18, 2022 @ Moanalua
SALT LAKE — Back to the ‘ship.
Kaliana Salazar-Harrell scored 27 points on 10-of-13 shooting on field goals to lead No. 2 Konawaena to a convincing 40-21 win over No. 3 Lahainaluna in a semifinal game of the Heide & Cook/HHSAA Division I Girls Basketball State Championships at Moanalua Friday.
The second-seeded Wildcats (10-0) snapped the 12-game winning streak of the third-seeded Lunas (11-1) to move on to Saturday's title game at 7 p.m. at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center arena, where they will play two-time defending champion and No. 1 seed Iolani (13-0) in a rematch of the last state final in 2020.
"It feels good," said Salazar-Harrell, a senior guard. "We've been working a lot this season on defense and offense and it really just feels good to finally be here at this moment."
Konawaena will be trying for its 10th state title and first since 2018. It will be playing in its 14th championship game; the last time was two years ago, when it lost to Iolani, 55-46.
"I'm so happy. I'm so happy for these girls to be back in this position," said longtime coach Bobbie Awa. "I've got five seniors out here and this is their last hurrah — there is no second chance after this — so I'm sure that they're gonna come out ready to play."
After a bit of a slow start, Salazar-Harrell got going offensively in the second quarter, when she scored seven of her team's 10 points in the period.
"We were shooting a lot of 3s, we weren't hitting it. We finally decided to drive it in and we started to get our looks," she said.
Awa spoke to her team between the first and second quarters about shot selection.
"We had to change it up, right? Have to, we can't live and die from the three, we might hurt ourselves," Awa said.
The first quarter, she said, was a bit of a feeling-out process for her team.
"You know, and I think a little bit of jitters, because we watched them play (and) the bigs did well last night so I think a little, you know, seeing those bigs in there they didn't want to attack, so we shot a lot of three-balls and it didn't fall for us so we had to change it up and they're just basketball players, you know? We always gotta play against big girls, right? So we cannot be scared, we cannot be intimidated, we just gotta play basketball," Awa added.
Konawaena held a 15-14 lead at halftime, but took over the game with a dominating third quarter.
Salazar-Harrell pumped in a 3-pointer in the first minute of the second half. A few possessions later she was fouled while shooting and made both free throws. After she assisted on Kayla Pak's 3-pointerfrom the left wing, Salazar-Harrell knocked down a trey from the right wing to make it a 26-15 lead for the Wildcats midway through the third quarter.
"So during halftime we said that we basically just had to work harder on defense and just play our game," Salazar-Harrell said. "We knew that we were kind of struggling out there in the beginning, but we just had to come out harder because, I mean, this is my last season, this is a lot of our seniors' last season so we knew we had to just give it our all."
Braelyn Kauhi made it 29-17 with her triple off of a screen from the left wing and then extended it to 32-17 with her three-point play one possession later.
The Wildcats spread the floor with about six minutes remaining and Salazar-Harrell scored her team's final six points.
Konawaena shot 45.5 percent (15 of 33) from the field, including 64.3 percent (9 of 14) after halftime.
Salazar-Harrell was 4 of 6 on 3-pointers and 3 for 4 from the free-throw line. She also grabbed six rebounds and had three steals and was the only Wildcat to play all 32 minutes.
Lahainaluna was 2-of-19 (10.5 percent) shooting from beyond the arc and 7 of 43 (16.3 percent) from the field.
"I felt we did a good job on the inside defensively, so I think we gave them some of that open outside shooting and I thought we did a pretty good job crashing the boards," Awa said.
Konawaena held the edge in rebounding, 32 to 25, but the Lunas tallied 13 of their boards on the offensive glass.
"We knew we had to start boxing out," Salazar-Harrell said. "They started to get a lot of open looks and more than one look, so they started getting a lot of offensive boards, so we knew we had to start boxing out and getting rebounds on the defensive end."
Eldredge finished with 10 points to lead Lahainaluna, which was held to a season-low point total.
The teams have faced off somewhat regularly between pre- and post-season matchups over the years, but Friday's game was their first meeting since pre-COVID.
"They're kind of a new team," Salazar-Harrell said of the Lunas. "We haven't seen some of the new girls and they're pretty good. It was a tough competition, but I'm glad we pulled it out."
The Wildcats improved to 51-17 all-time in state-tournament games, with a large number of those coming under Awa, who is in her 20th season at the helm of the program.
She, for one, hasn't taken this state tournament for granted.
"I'm just so happy that we get to experience this once again and super excited for the girls that they got a season after they had to miss out on one year," Awa said. "I'm so excited for them and not just my team, but for everybody to be out there."
The Konawaena-Iolani game will follow the D2 final between Sacred Hearts and Hawaii Baptist at 5 p.m. and culminate the final day of the girls basketball season, which wraps up with six games at Blaisdell Arena Saturday beginning at 9 a.m.
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