WAIMEA — Kauai High School’s varsity girls basketball team won the season’s first round with a 48-31 win Friday evening at Waimea High.
“The girls put in a lot of work. It shows,” said Kauai head coach James Dingus. “It is only the first half (of the season), but it is a step in the right direction, for sure. Kapaa is going to come back ready for the second round, and Waimea’s going to regroup. So it’s a good start, but we still got more work to do.”
Kauai (3-1 KIF) went into halftime with just a two-point lead. Then at the beginning of the third quarter, the Red Raiders scored 11 unanswered points within minutes.
After freshman guard Marissa Layosa converted two free throws, the Red Raiders got a steal off the ensuing Menehune inbounds pass. Layosa quickly scored off the turnover and drew a foul. She then made the following free throw for the three-point play.
Later, senior guard Monique Tomacder hit back-to-back three-pointers to cap off the 11-point swing.
“As a team, we score in bunches. I guess that’s how everything happened,” Tomacder said. “That played a role in how the score got separated. … I always shoot threes, so it doesn’t really bother me. But it feels good to know that I’m helping us get to where we want to be.”
“I think in the first half, we had some missed opportunities with some free throws, otherwise we could have had a little more separation at halftime,” Dingus said. “But credit Waimea, too. They pushed the ball, and they scored in transition in the first half. But we did make some shots. Those three-pointers were big. And Marissa made a few big defensive plays. We were able to get that bigger separation, and I think that was the game. It’s kind of hard to come back after that.”
Waimea (1-3 KIF) just managed five points to Kauai’s 18 in that third period. The Menehune were outscored in the second half, 27-12.
“Tonight, in the second half, Kauai High wanted it more than us,” said Waimea head coach Natalie Mata. “So, hats off to them. They played a good game. They outplayed us tonight. And we, as a team, have to take that in.”
Though facing a double- digit deficit in the waning minutes, Waimea still pressed forward — scrambling to get turnovers and attack the basket.
Menehune junior guard Monique Joy Lorenzo scored five of Waimea seven points in the final quarter.
“I didn’t give up. I know we still had time,” Lorenzo said. “This game, I just wanted to bring it in because I really wanted to win.”
“One thing I emphasize a lot is hustle, and the willingness not to give up. These girls know,” Mata said. “Yes, I give them 100 percent credit for trying to go hard. But me as a coach, and us as a team, we know that that’s not our hardest.”
As the Menehune gave it one last charge, Tomacder was watching from the sidelines nervously.
“I was getting scared for everyone,” she said. “Like, ‘Oh, my gosh, guys.’ My heart jumped. It was a roller coaster of emotion.”
Dingus added: “They (Waimea) did keep fighting. They got a lot of pride. I think that’s why moving forward, we’re going to have to continue to improve, clean some things up and do a little bit more. Otherwise, winning the first round might not mean as much.”
Layosa finished with 10 points, seven rebounds, a steal and an assist for Kauai High. Tomacder had seven points and two assists. Junior center Taegan Keep led Kauai’s offense with 17 points along with seven rebounds and five blocks.
Lorenzo was Waimea’s leading scorer with 12 points along with three steals, two rebounds and two assists. Junior forward Starlynn Ripley had seven points, three rebounds, two steals and a block. Junior guard Apryl Grande had four points, two rebounds and an assist.
The season’s second round will begin Jan. 3 when Kauai High hosts Kapaa (2-2 KIF). The junior varsity game will begin 5:30 p.m. and the varsity will follow.
Waimea will next play at Kapaa on Jan. 6.