HHSAA Girls Basketball
Raiders ride defense to three-peat as queens of the court


Sat, Feb 19, 2022 @ Blaisdell

Final 1 2 3 4  
Konawaena (9-0, 11-1) 4 63417
Iolani (11-0, 15-2) 7 7 7 728
J. Wahinekapu Lefotu 14 pts  8/12 FTs
J. Losalio-Watson 6 pts  0/0 FTs
J. Wahinekapu Lefotu 8 tot  1 off  7 def
J. Losalio-Watson 5 tot  5 def

The old adage still rings true — defense does win championships.

Iolani put the clamps on Konawaena to win its third straight state title with a 28-17 win in the Heide & Cook Division I Girls Basketball Championships at the Neal Blaisdell Center arena Saturday night.

Jovi Wahinekapu Lefotu scored 14 points and the Raiders held the Wildcats to under 25 percent shooting from the field — which included an 0-for-11 clip from 3-point range — to win their seventh overall state crown.

"They put all their heart and soul into their defense and the defense carried us again tonight," said Iolani coach Dean Young, whose team forced 20 turnovers in a 54-39 semifinal win over Campbell.

"We told them, don't even worry about offense. Put everything you got on defense and the offense will work itself out. I told them there's no tomorrow so don't save anything and just play for each other, give everything you got and play with confidence."

Wahinekapu Lefotu, the last remaining member of the previous two state championship teams, added eight rebounds with two assists and two blocks while going 8-for-12 at the free throw line to keep the Wildcats at bay in the fourth quarter.

"What a huge leader for us," Young said of Wahinekapu Lefotu, who was named the tournament's most outstanding player.

"Jovi never panicked. She's been here before, the only player I have that's been here before, and it showed."

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As the lone senior on the current squad, Wahinekapu Lefotu said winning a championship while being in the leadership role meant a lot to her as the Raiders also completed an undefeated run through ILH play and the postseason.

"I'm really happy because I'm the only senior and we won it without having people that I usually look up to," said Wahinekapu Lefotu, who signed a letter of intent to play for the University of Hawaii. "So proud of these girls and how they came out tonight."

The Raiders took a 7-4 lead after the opening period before Konawaena went on a 6-0 run to take a three-point lead midway through the second quarter.

Iolani stopped the run after Wahinekapu Lefotu came down with an offensive rebound and dished off to Callie Pieper in the paint. A corner triple by Haylie-Anne Ohta off an assist by Abby Tanaka retook the lead for the Raiders and another Wahinekapu Lefotu pass to Pieper capped a 7-0 run to give Iolani a 14-10 lead at the break.

Wahinekapu Lefotu said staying composed during the second quarter helped the Raiders withstand Konawaena's run.

"We've been challenged before when we've been down a couple and we let teams get runs," she said. "We just kept our composure and stuck to the game plan."

While the Wildcats never got closer the rest of the way, it's important to note that they were without senior guard and leading scorer Kailana Salazar-Harrell in the second half. Salazar-Harrell, who scored 24 points or more in Konawaena's previous three games, went down with a left knee injury after defending a post-up at the halftime buzzer.

"That's hard," Konawaena coach Bobbie Awa said of Salazar-Harrell's absence. "She's the captain of our team, their leader. The girls, they follow her. She leads by example. That was a big loss for our program."

Still, the Wildcats battled and tried their best to keep up with the Raiders. Konawaena managed to force Iolani into a number of turnovers in the second half and did not allow another field goal by the Raiders after the 3:50 mark of the third quarter.

But with their best player out of the game with an injury, the Wildcats had no one to match Wahinekapu Lefotu's efforts in the second half. The 5-foot-9 Iolani senior scored 10 of her game-high 14 points after halftime, which included a three-point play to start the third quarter. She also knocked down seven free throws in the fourth quarter when Konawaena needed to foul.

Wahinekapu Lefotu had nothing but respect for the Wildcats after the game.

"They're a really well disciplined team and they're coached well," she said. "We just had to value our offense and really put pressure on defense and getting stops was really key for us. That's what we focused on and I'm glad we came out with the dub."

Braelyn Kauhi and Juliana Losalio-Watson each had six points to lead the Wildcats in the loss.

Konawaena, who was looking for its 10th state title, dropped to 9-5 in title game appearances.

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