LIHUE — The Red Raider girls won at home to clinch the season’s first round, but they worked out of early trouble to do so.
Kauai High School’s varsity girls basketball team defeated Waimea High School, 47-32, Friday evening.
“It’s only halfway. There’s lots of races where the leader at the halfway mark doesn’t close out the deal. So we got to make sure we keep getting better and keep improving, keep getting smarter, physical fitness, all of it so we can try to continue to momentum we have,” said Kauai head coach James Dingus. “But with that, of course, it’s nice to win the first half if you’re in a competition. You’d rather be the one ahead and winning games, for sure.”
Kauai (3-0 KIF) trailed, 17-12, going into halftime. Then Menehune then started the third quarter with four quick points for a nine-point lead.
The Red Raiders erased that deficit to end the third period tied, 30-30.
“It was very aggressive. It was one of the most aggressive games I’ve played,” said Red Raiders sophomore guard Marissa Layosa. “It’s just, they play fast. We want to do the opposite. … Take it slow, play our game and do what we’re good at.”
Layosa added of winning the first round: “I’m very proud of my girls. We worked really hard. We got along very good, perfectly, together. I’m excited to see what the other half of the season is like. I want to see each other grow and what we can accomplish.”
This was the first game of Kauai’s season in which the team played facing a deficit.
“It’s great experience. Part of athletics is trying to meet challenges, and that turns into a life lesson,” Dingus said. “In life, there’s challenges everybody faces. I thought our team did a really good job meeting the challenges, especially in that fourth quarter.”
Kauai then took advantage of the bonus situation in the fourth quarter to outscore Waimea, 17-2, to clinch the round-winning game.
Kauai converted 11 of 16 free throw attempts in the final period. Layosa and freshman guard Amalya Sales each were 4-4 at the free throw line.
Waimea was called for 26 total fouls in the game to Kauai’s 13.
“In the first half, we got into the bonus pretty fast, and I don’t think we took advantage of that as much as we could have in the first half — especially the second quarter,” Dingus said. “In the second half, we talk about being aggressive and getting the ball inside.
“One reason I believe good basketball teams do that is because you get to the free throw line. It gets the other team in foul trouble, and you get those points at the free throw line if you can make them,” he continued. “It’s a really nice way to play.”
Waimea (1-2 KIF) defensively stifled Kauai in the first half.
A steal and fastbreak layup by Menehune senior guard Monique Lorenzo and a layup by sophomore guard Tiana Ramos in the closing minute of the second quarter gave Waimea the five-point lead at halftime.
Kauai took the lead late in the fourth quarter, but at layup by Menehune senior forward Starlynn Ripley at the buzzer tied the score at 30-30.
But Waimea managed just two points in the final period.
Waimea head coach Natalie Mata declined to comment following the game.
“You have to give the players and coaching staff from Waimea a lot of credit,” Dingus said. “They came out with a lot of energy, intensity, and they were physical and fast. They were flying around the court. I don’t think we were ready for it in the first half. So, it did not feel like a double-digit win to me even though the score indicated that. It was tied going into the fourth quarter, so it was anybody’s game.”
Layosa totaled eight points, five assists, four rebounds, three blocks and two steals for Kauai. Sales had 13 points, six rebounds, three blocks and two steals.
Red Raiders senior center Taegan Keep posted a double-double with 20 points — 15 in the second half — 13 rebounds and three blocks.
Lorenzo had eight points, six rebounds, three assists and a steal for Waimea. Ripley had six points, seven rebounds, two steals and one assist. Freshman guard Kaye Serapio had six points, nine rebounds and two steals.
Waimea won the junior varsity contest against Kauai, 36-23. Brae Cayaban scored 16 points to lead Waimea.
Kauai’s Jessica Cezar led Kauai’s JV team with nine points.
Waimea will host Kapaa (0-2 KIF) on Tuesday. The JV game will begin 5:30 p.m. and the varsity will follow.
Kauai will play at Kapaa on Friday to conclude the first round. The season’s second round will begin on Jan. 2 when Kauai hosts Waimea.