Warnock leads Ballers to title

KALAHEO — Autumn Warnock hit two key fourth quarter field goals to lead the Kaua‘i Ballers to a 39-29 win over Kaulupono and the title of the Girls 14 and Under division of the Kaua‘i Youth Summer league, Monday night at the Kalaheo Neighborhood Center.

Warnock, who was named the Most Valuable Player by Kaua‘i Youth Basketball Association officials, was missing her partner, guard Kekai Gonsalves, but that did not deter the Kaua‘i Ballers.

Guard Shai-Anne Abigania stepped up in the absence of Gonsalves and roared to net six of the team’s 14 first quarter points, her effort being complemented by the hustle of Ariel Cummings who finished with four second-half points.

Abigania finished with 12 points to lead the Kaua‘i Ballers followed by center Sierra Shigematsu who squeezed playing time after racking up four fouls but scoring eight points.

Warnock finished with seven points, Lele Hanie, another guard, added five points, including the team’s only three-pointer in the final quarter.

Following Cummings’ four points, Kristen Yam, added a pair.

The intensity of the game was reflected in the number of fouls as the Kaua‘i Ballers collected 11 team fouls, 10 coming in the first half. Abigania, Hanie, Cummings, Shigematsu and Yam finished the game with four fouls apiece.

Similarly, Kaulupono paid the price as Casey Fernandez, Nicole Palacio, Melia Okura, Lauren Lagoc, Taylor Gaspar, Kiarra Palacio, Kaelyn Aquino-Kamakele and Jenaiah Banasihan each had four fouls.

Aquino-Kamakele kept Kaulupono close with one of two treys marked by the Westside girls, finishing with five points along with Banasihan who also marked a three-pointer in the second quarter.

Throughout the night, Kaulupono stayed within striking range, the Kaua‘i Baller lead seldom straying from the 7-point range.

Kiarra Palacio, Nicole’s younger sister, was not detered by the maturity of the Kaua‘i Ballers, going head-to-head despite being smaller in stature and finishing with three points, all coming in the second quarter.

Fernandez, another Kaulupono firecracker, Okura, the low post, Gaspar and Lagoc each paired in the effort.

The battle for third place was equated to a title match by some of the fans who stayed glued to their seats until Team Lihu‘e claimed the No. 3 spot with a 36-28 edge over the Kamikaze, described by fans as “the team from the far side of Lihu‘e.”

The Kamikaze, coached by Keven Hanano and Greg Meyers, is essentially the same team which finished undefeated in the Girls 12 and Under division, clinching the title, Saturday.

However, its youth did not stop the team, Monday as the redshirts battled not only a 0-9 season record, but for its first win.

Trailing 10-11 on a buzzer-beating field goal from Sandrea Chung, the Kamikaze opened the second frame on a Kalau Tanaka-Pesamino bucket to take the lead 12-11 for the first time in the game.

Buckets from Chyna Hanano, Siokapesi Paua, voted to the MVP of the Girls 12 Under division, and Sheryl Ann Tomas, the Kamikaze pulled to a 19-19 deadlock at the half and outscored Team Lihu‘e 8-6 in the third quarter, led by four points from Paua.

That triggered Team Lihu‘e into action as two straight bucket from Rianna Ralston pulled the blackshirts into the lead behind a 10-1 final period, Ralston’s go-ahead coming at the 5:30 mark.

Ralston, deadly from inside the key, finished with a game-high 17 points for Team Lihu‘e, her effort being followed by strong guard Ashley Lucas dropping nine points, seven coming in the second half.

Laura Koga may have finished with five points, but her value came on both sides of the ball, kickstarting the offense and keying on Kamikaze turnovers. Sierra “Pili” Chung and Marissa Martinez, strong ball movers for Team Lihu‘e, finished with pairs.

With the 14 and Under divisions settled, KYBA enters the final leg of the Over 18 division, hosting two Women 18 and Over matches, Thursday at the Kalaheo Neighborhood Center starting at 6 p.m.

Team 808 opens against TUNDAZ followed by the SHAKERS taking on Bajingas at 7 p.m.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.

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