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(Fri) February 27, 2009

HHSAA Division I GIRLS BASKETBALL: Konawaena Outlasts Punahou, Claims Division I State Basketball Crown

By Kyle Galdeira

Konawaena freshman guard Emalia Galdeira poured in a game-high 23 points and hauled in nine rebounds to lead the Wildcats over Punahou 54-50 in a double overtime thriller tonight in the championship game of the Hawaiian Airlines/HHSAA Division I Girls Basketball State Championships at the Neal Blaisdell Arena.

Second-seeded Konawaena, the Big Island Interscholastic Federation champion, improved to 15-0 on the season and claimed its third state crown in five years—the last of which came in 2007, also in a win over Punahou. Galdeira took home tournament Most Outstanding Player honors for her effort, while teammate Kim Brown chipped in 13 points and seven rebounds.

Top-seeded Punahou (13-2), the Interscholastic League of Honolulu champion, established the momentum throughout most of the first quarter, and ended the period up 9-8.

But Konawaena battled back in the second quarter and took a 12-11 lead. The Wildcats extended their advantage to 15-13 with five minutes to play in the half as Kimberly Brown converted a layup, and made the point after on the foul shot. Brown added a two-point bucket a minute later to put her squad up 17-13.

Two buckets from Galdeira extended Konawaena’s advantage to 21-16 late in the half. The Buffanblu answered with two free throws towards the end of the half, and trailed 21-18 going into the locker room at the break.

The Wildcats came out of the intermission firing, and took advantage of two Punahou offensive charging fouls in the paint. But the Buffanblu did not break, and guard Janelle Nomura chipped in two quick baskets to cut the deficit to 29-25 with nearly four minutes to play in the third quarter.

Galdeira swished a three-pointer from way beyond the arc as the third quarter came to a close, and gave Konawaena a commanding 38-29 lead with one quarter left to play.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Galdeira added another jumper to push Konawaena’s lead to 44-34. But, on the ensuing play, Nomura converted a three-point play after she was fouled on a successful close-range jumper and hit the free throw to cut the lead to seven points.

After receiving the ball again, Nomura drew another foul, and hit both free throws. Mysha Sataraka added a layup following a Punahou steal, and just like that, the Buffanblu were down by just three points, 44-41, with two minutes remaining in the game. 

Sataraka kept the momentum for Punahou, drew another foul, and hit one of two free throws to trim the deficit to two points. On Konawaena’s ensuing possession, the Buffanblu held fast on defense, and drew an offensive foul to regain the ball with a chance to tie.

Nomura cashed in on the opportunity, hitting a driving layup to tie the game at 44 with 18.2 seconds to play.

With the clock approaching zero, Konawaena held the ball and found an open Galdeira who launched a three-pointer that failed to hit iron, and sent the game into overtime.

Thea Hanato-Smith finally broke the stalemate halfway into the overtime, converting one of two free throws to put the Wildcats up 45-44. Following a Julianne Nomura free throw that tied the game again, Punahou held the ball for a final shot but Janelle Nomura could not hit the game-winning runner—and instead sent the contest into double overtime.

Galdeira finally broke the tie with a layup nearly two minutes into the second extra period to put Konawaena up 47-45. After regaining possession, the Wildcats again turned to Galdeira who dropped in a teardrop floater to put her squad up by four with under a minute to play.

Punahou clawed back to within two points of the lead as Janelle Nomura again weaved into the lane for a twisting layup.

But with 27 seconds to play, Galdeira came through in the clutch yet again, connecting on another shot to put her team up 51-47. Punahou missed its ensuing shot, and fouled Dawnyelle Awa who went to the charity stripe and nailed both shots. The Wildcats iced the game with another free throw, and claimed the state crown after over two hours of battling.

Janelle Nomura paced Punahou with 20 points on the evening, while teammate Tressa Torres chipped in 10.

Since 2003, the Division I state title has changed hands between the Buffanblu and Wildcats, and despite the loss, Punahou still has 10 state girls titles to its credit.