LIHUE — With 4.5 seconds on the game clock Tuesday night, Kapaa’s Jazmin Kaleiohi grabbed the rebound at the Kauai High School gym.
The clock ticked silently as Kaleiohi hefted the sphere to Paea Tafea, who waited beyond the half court line. Unchallenged, Tafea glided down the paint to nestle the ball just a heartbeat ahead of the buzzer, triggering cheers from Kapaa fans as the referee signaled “good,” and Kapaa celebrated a 44-43 victory to open the second round of the Kauai Interscholastic Federation girls basketball season.
“We just had the girls work hard,” said Kapaa coach William Aki. “We didn’t buckle this time. We are short-handed with just seven players suited up, and they stayed in the game to the end. When we missed a layup with a lot of time left on the clock. Paea took over and just finished.”
The victory comes after the Warriors faced a 21-12 halftime deficit, built on a productive second quarter when Kauai pulled ahead behind six points from Monique Tomacder and four from Taegan Keep on the inside.
Kapaa rallied in the third quarter behind eight points from guard Jaliyah Casem, who tickled the twine from outside the three-point arc and got help from Angelica Cudiamat who bombed a trey.
“We got a little too conservative,” said Kauai coach James Dingus. “We needed to be aggressive in the fourth quarter, but the girls were already off pace. It came down to just one play. Just like the last time we played Kapaa — intense.”
Tafea came alive in the fourth quarter, nailing six of her 12 points, including the buzzer-beating bucket. Kauai got six points from Keep in the final stanza, but missed free throws — 0-for-5 in the quarter — proved costly for the Raiders.
“Thank God,” Tafea said. “People had their doubts about us, but this is the New Year. We’re finishing!”
Casem topped the Warrior scoring with 17 points, including a pair of three-balls. Kaleiohi finished with seven points, but was in the midst of rebound battles. Cudiamat ended with five points, Mele Tafea, wrangling with Keep through the first half, contributed a second-quarter pair, and a digit from Tamare “Kiki” Daligcon saw all but one Warrior scoring.
“Hats off to Kapaa,” Dingus said. “They showed a lot of heart, tonight despite being short-handed. They found a way, and just made the plays.”
Keep led Kauai with a game-high 24 points. Tomacder added eight points followed by Marissa Layosa adding five, including a three-ball in the third quarter, and Cici Tanicala added four points.
Earlier in the evening, Leilanna Wong finished with 11 points and Tiani Kaui fired off a pair from three-point land to lead the junior varsity Warriors to a 25-23 edge over the JV Raiders who got six points from Tiana Manera, five points from Rebecca Zenger, and four points from Kaylee Alapai.
Kapaa next hosts Waimea High School, Friday night with the JV Warriors hosting the JV Raiders in the 5:30 p.m. tipoff. The Menehune go up against the Warriors 20 minutes following the JV contest.