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Kahuku girls hold off Campbell, 33-31, to reclaim OIA title

By Wes Nakama

PEARL CITY — The bullet train that was the Kahuku girls basketball team finally slowed down just a bit Wednesday night, but still had enough momentum to deny Campbell, 33-31, and win its third OIA basketball championship in five years.

A large and deafening crowd of about 1,300 at Pearl City Gym watched the Red Raiders use a late 6-0 run to overtake the Sabers and then stop them on the final possession to improve to 14-0 and secure the OIA’s top seed and first-round bye in next week’s state tournament. Campbell, which had won the previous two league crowns, fell to 12-1 and will begin state tournament play on Monday.

The Sabers had the ball with nine seconds remaining, and tried to work it inside to the right block. But the ball was knocked loose, and time expired after several players took to the floor and got tied up for a held ball.

“We did a lot of defense in practice, and our coaches kept reminding us to keep our hands out,” said Kahuku guard Posia Wily, who scored nine points with four rebounds, three steals and two blocks. “Do the little things … that’s what we needed to execute.”   

The Red Raiders had rolled through the regular season, winning all 11 games by at least 32 points, then had similar playoff victories over Leilehua (72-34) and Radford (66-37). Campbell, meanwhile, had to rally for a thrilling 57-55 double-overtime win over Moanalua in Monday’s semifinals.

Still, the Sabers showed early on they could match Kahuku basket-for-basket, even taking a 15-11 lead on Shanna Shardon’s 3-pointer about two minutes into the second period. Kahuku then rallied for a 19-17 halftime lead, and began the second half with a 5-0 run capped by Wily’s steal and layup three minutes in to make it 24-17.

Campbell then responded with an 11-3 surge culminating in Cayden Parado’s 3-pointer that put the Sabers ahead, 28-27, with 1:25 remaining in the quarter. That’s when the Red Raiders responded with their decisive 6-0 run capped by Elisa Holakeituai’s bank shot that put them up, 33-28, with 7:14 left in the game.

Jaynalyn Sotelo’s layup with 5:04 remaining finally snapped an almost four-and-a-half-minute scoring drought, and Taysia Molina-Schulte made the second of two free throws with 4:27 on the clock to cut the deficit to 33-31.

“We came in, we felt good, I thought we looked good in spurts,” Sabers coach Jazmine Corpuz said. “I think (Kahuku’s) physicality took a toll toward the end. But I’m proud of our girls, it’s always a game and we’re never going to give up that easy. I’m proud of them for fighting all the way.”

Despite all the Red Raiders’ lopsided victories prior to Wednesday, Kahuku coach Artevia Wily-Ava said her team was prepared for the different challenge and stiff competition that Campbell presented.

“We just had to focus and remind them to play our game, gotta do what we have to do,” Wily-Ava said. “Defensively, we really stepped up. Offensively, it was probably our ugliest game but we still were able to remind the girls to keep going until you hear the whistle blows, or until the basket goes in. For the most part, that’s what we focused on — was doing your job on defense. We didn’t have a special practice for this game. It was just execute and play our game.”  

Photos: Lori McKeown

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