Thursday | December 14, 2017
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BIIF girls basketball: Hilo gets help in the middle

Hilo junior Samm Brewer, a transfer from Oregon, provides size at 5 feet 10 and muscle on the basketball court, where the Vikings are a little short in both departments.

Despite a couple of good late looks from 3-point territory, the Vikings fell to Mililani 31-28 in the first round of the Waiakea Invitational on Thursday night at the Warriors Gym.

The two teams met in the first round of the HHSAA Division I tournament last season. The Vikings won 43-34. The Trojans return several key parts, including 6-2 senior Cheyenne Adora and 5-7 junior Kalena Gibson.

Brewer, a junior, and 5-9 senior Mele Vaka did their best to make the tall Trojan duo uncomfortable, and Hilo’s guards pressured the ball, forcing 26 turnovers, including 11 in the fourth quarter. Hilo, the BIIF runner-up from last season, had 14 giveaways.

Mandi Kawaha, who dropped in layups off steals and nailed mid-range jump shots, scored 10 points to lead the Vikings and right behind was Brewer with eight points.

Relying on their athleticism and length, Gibson scored 10 points and Adora added nine points for Mililani, which led 29-19 with six minutes remaining.

Then Hilo went on a 9-0 run, capped by Tatiana Rideout’s three-point play with 3:03 left, to get within 31-28.

The Vikings forced a turnover with 2:12 left and missed a 3. They got a held-ball call at 1:00 and missed their last open-look 3-point attempt.

Mililani eventually took a free throw and grabbed the missed attempt with four seconds to go and ran out the clock.

“I liked our second half. In the first half, we played laid-back,” Hilo coach Clifford Kawaha said. “When we get down, we play harder. I told the girls we have to play harder from the beginning.”

Brewer moved to the Big Island in August. She grew up competing in rodeo and got into hoops only in the eighth grade. Her Molalla High School team won its league but lost in the second game of the playoffs.

“It felt really good,” Brewer said of playing her first game as a Viking. “I was a little nervous. In the second half of the season, I dislocated my shoulder.

“I like the weather. It’s 40 degrees in Oregon right now. The team is family-oriented and competitive. We were not as bonded as we are here.”

Like last season, Hilo’s keys are ball pressure to force turnovers and score easy baskets and move the ball to create shots.

“Mandi, Mindy Kawaha and Asia Castillo are good ball-handlers, and they get the ball to the bigs efficiently,” Brewer said. “Mele and I are bigger than most of the players, and it makes it easier for us to get in the post and make plays.”

What Hilo’s second-year coach appreciated was Brewer’s ability to move Adora off her favorite spots in the paint. Post defense and rebounding weren’t strong suits last year. It got an upgrade with Brewer, who has two basketball-playing siblings in her sister Rydyn, sixth grade, and brother Bryson, third grade.

“We let Mililani’s players post too low,” said Clifford Kawaha, uncle to the Kawaha sisters. “Samm pushed their post players out and helped us out.”

There’s still a lot more preseason to go, but it’s never to early to think about the upcoming BIIF season, which will likely be a competitive one in Division I with Konawaena, Hilo, Waiakea, and Honokaa.

Last season, Hilo edged Waiakea 40-39 in the BIIF semifinals to earn its fifth straight trip to states. The Warriors are a team on the rise with a lot of standout sophomores.

“It’s going to be a good season this year,” Clifford Kawaha said. “It’ll come down to the end. Each team will improve. Last year, we improved then went backward. This year, we want to keep moving forward in every game.”

Konawaena 38, Iolani 35: The three-time defending Division I state champions trailed 21-7 at halftime but outscored the Raiders 31-14 in the second half.

Mikayla Tablit led the comeback with 12 points while Cheriln Molina and Caiyle Kaupu added 10 points each.

Tori Lynn Maeda scored eight points while Kyera Tanabe and Lily Lefotu Wahinekapu had seven points each for Iolani.

“We were working hard but not working smart,” Konawaena co-head coach Dawnyelle Awa said. “We had nine turnovers in the first half. Offensively, a lot of the girls were going one-on-one.

“In the second half, it was Mikayla’s defensive intensity, and she put points on the board, and everybody fed off of her.”


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