KAPAA — The Warrior wahine took the lead in the final minute to claim the top prize yet again.
Kapaa High School’s varsity girls basketball team (6-2 KIF, 3-1 second round) edged Kauai, 33-30, at home Friday night and won the Kauai Interscholastic Federation title for a second-consecutive season.
“It means so much. We’ve been practicing for so long and I’ve played my whole life with this team,” said Kapaa senior guard Shai-anne Abigania. “To have a championship on my senior year, it’s the best feeling ever.”
Down 30-29 going into that last minute, Warriors junior guard Kunani Tuttle was sent to the free throw line twice. She would make all four attempts to put her team ahead for good.
“At first, I wanted to cry. I was so nervous,” Tuttle said about taking those free throws. “I was praying so hard. I’m just so thankful that my Heavenly Father blessed me.”
After ending the first half with a three-point deficit, Kauai (4-4 KIF, 2-2 second round) scored 15 unanswered points during the third and fourth quarters.
“They were relaxed. When they’re relaxed, not thinking too much and started seeing things and knowing when to do things, things went right,” said Kauai head coach Neil Fagarang about that 15-point run.
The Red Raiders coach added he opted to slow down his offense and tried to take time off the clock when his team, at the time, had a 30-22 lead. He said he regretted the decision afterwards, but is proud of how his team played.
“There was no negative thing I saw tonight, aside from the outcome of the game,” he said. “I told the girls to keep their heads up. It’s not like we didn’t fight. We fought all the way through.”
During that run, Red Raiders junior guard Marissa Martinez hit a running floater to put her team ahead, 23-22, just before the end of the third period.
“We knew that if we didn’t win tonight, it would be our last game,” Martinez said. “We did our best and played our hearts out.”
Before Tuttle made the free throws that would seal her team the win, Abigania made a 3-pointer that swung the momentum back to Kapaa’s side.
“It was a hard-fought game. Kauai High came out to play,” said Kapaa head coach William Aki. “We had a lot of good minutes from our guards, a lot of good scoring from the outside.”
Tuttle was Kapaa’s leading scorer with 13 points. Sophomore forward Paea Tafea had 11 points.
Freshman center Taegan Keep scored 11 points for Kauai. Martinez scored nine points and sophomore guard Monique Tomacder had six.
“We improved a lot from last year,” Martinez said. “The underclassmen from the team we have now, we’ll work harder and hopefully we can take it next year.”
Upon winning the season finale and the KIF championship, three Warrior seniors played their final game at their home gym — Abigania and guards Ariel Cummings and Brandie McCarthy.
“It feels amazing. We worked hard for it,” Cummings said. “It meant a lot. I’m just so happy and relieved. I really wanted this on Senior Night. I’m really proud of my team.”
Kapaa will be on Oahu next month to participate in the New City Nissan Girls Basketball State Championships — Division II tournament.