KALAHEO — Kekai Gonsalves scored eight points to lead the Kaua‘i Ballers to a 32-24 win, Monday night in a pair of Girls 14 Under basketball games at the Kalaheo Neighborhood Center.
Hosted by the Kaua‘i Youth Basketball Association and the County of Kaua‘i, the Kaua‘i Ballers ended the Summer Youth Basketball league with an undefeated 8-0 record and gets the top seed for the playoffs which start next Saturday.
Despite the loss, Kaulupono, comprised primarily of girls from the Westside, finished the season with a 5-3 record for the second seed in the summer league.
Earlier in the night, Team Lihu‘e surged to a 30-16 showing over the Kamikaze, finishing the summer season with a 3-5 record and the third seed while the Kamikaze drop to 0-8 and the fourth seed.
Gonsalves teamed with Autmn Warnock to spearhead the Ballers, coached by Willy Aki, throughout the night, Warnock keying on critical boards and dropping the only three-ball for the greenshirts.
She finished with seven points in the win followed by Uilani McCabe igniting for four second-half points en route to her game-total six points.
Low post Sierra Shigematsu dropped four points in her limited floor time followed by Ariel Cummings adding three points.
Kaulupono, trailing 16-7 at the half, never lost its spark despite suffering an injury to one of its key players in the second period.
The team coached by Natalie Mata and seconded by Bobby Kamakele clawed back, gaining the lead for the first time late in the third quarter where the blueshirts outscored the Ballers, 11-3, before succumbing to fouls.
Nicole Palacio passed to Melia Okura who pocketed the ball with 1:45 showing in the third frame to pull to within a digit, 16-17.
The inside post took an inbound play at 1:21 for Kaulupono’s first lead of the game.
Palacio, recognized as a threat by the Kaua‘i Ballers, kept a tight defensive rein on the strong guard, holding her to just one field goal in the night.
Despite that, Palacio finished with high point honors for Kaulupono, going 5-for-16 at the charity stripe. Okura, definitely playing a step-up game in heavy traffic for rebounds, finished with six points, four coming in the swing third period.
Taylor Gaspar, fouling out with 41 seconds in the game, put away four points in addition to her court hustle and ball handling quickness.
Casey Fernandez came off the bench and was close to fouling out, but finished with three points. Kiarra Palacio, Nicole’s younger sister, and Jenaiah Banasihan, fouling out in the swing third period, each paired.
Rianna Ralston finished with nine points to lead Team Lihu‘e in its win followed by Kaila Harris, the hustling guard, adding six points.
Maylssa Manera and Marissa Martinez each added three points, Laura Koga, recovered from her earlier injury last week, Mie Miller, Natalia Alvarez and Waihea Gonsalves each paired and a digit from Bridgette Semana rounded out the win.
Sheryl Ann Tomas netted all six of her points in the first half when the Kamikaze were close, 11-14 at the half.
She led the Kamikaze effort followed by Kaelee Esposo adding three. Monique Tomacder, Ana Paua and Siokapesi Paua were held to just two points apiece and a digit from Hiarava Tafiti rounded out the effort.
Five games are on tap for Thursday night, two at the Kalaheo Neighborhood Center where the Boys 14 Under close out its summer league starting at 6 p.m.
Three games are on tap for the Kilauea Neighborhood Center, all three being Men 18 and Over games starting at 6 p.m.
Starting Friday, the KYBA hosts a team from Maui in the Girls 14 and Under Invitational at the Kalaheo Neighborhood Center.
• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.