LIHUE — The Red Raiders held on by a thread to win the last regular season game.
Kauai High School’s varsity girls basketball team (5-3 KIF, 2-2 2nd round) defeated Waimea, 37-35, Friday evening at home.
“Found a way to pull through,” said Kauai head coach James Dingus. “Made enough plays down the stretch. I thought the defense was pretty solid after we switched to man-to-man and took away their three-point opportunities. And we were able to get enough stops to squeak it out.”
Kauai had a near double-digit lead a some point during the fourth quarter. Waimea (1-7 KIF, 0-4 2nd round) then went on an offensive roll.
A couple of three-pointers each by Menehune junior guards Monique Joy Lorenzo and Kiarra Palacio tied the game at 35-35.
“It felt good, but I thought about it — that it wasn’t done yet,” Lorenzo said. “We still kept pushing and just kept working.”
On their way to tying the game late in the fourth quarter, the Menehune created turnovers from playing full-court press defense.
“We’re small. That’s our type of game,” said Waimea head coach Natalie Mata. “We don’t have size. All the other teams beat us on that size. We’re small, but we’re fast. And all my girls are in very good condition. That’s just our game — scrappy and able to force turnovers.”
A couple of free throws in the final minute gave Kauai High the two-point lead, which held until time expired.
“At the end of the game, I didn’t even hear the buzzer go because it was so loud,” said Red Raiders senior guard Sheryl Tomas. “Seeing the time was zero and we won by two points, it was just a relief.”
Waimea had the final possession with about 10 second remaining. Menehune senior forward Shania Kahepuu had the ball and attempted a layup as the remaining seconds expired. Kahepuu’s game-tying attempt did not fall through.
Despite the result, however, Mata said it was the team’s best effort of the season.
“Everyone played hard: 100 percent from beginning to end, and that’s all we can ask for,” she said.
Tomas had six points, three rebounds and a steal for Kauai. Junior center Taegan Keep had nine points, 10 rebounds and five blocks. Freshman guard Marissa Layosa had nine points, four rebounds, a steal and a block.
Palacio had a game-high 18 points — 12 in the fourth quarter — six rebounds, two steals and two assists. Lorenzo had seven points, three rebounds and an assist.
“All I know is a lot of us are coming back next year, and we’re ready for it. We’re looking forward to what we’re going to do next year,” Lorenzo said.
Friday’s was Kauai’s senior night. Five Red Raiders were acknowledged before tip-off: Tomas, forward Kayla Dootario, guard Monique Tomacder, guard Melanie Matsunaga and forward Sierra Fernandez.
“During the alma mater, towards the end, I started getting really emotional,” Tomas said. “It was just a relief to have your senior night and win your senior game. It was a great way to end a regular season.”
The Kauai Interscholastic Federation girls basketball championship game between first round-winner Kauai and second round-winner Kapaa is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday at Kauai High School.
“It’s a championship game — one game for all the marbles and to try to go to the state tournament,” Dingus said. “I hope everyone comes out. I hope it’s a fun one. I’m excited. I hope the girls are excited, and I hope we come out and play confidently.”
In the junior varsity contest, Kapaa beat Kauai, 33-17. Shailee Teles-Kelekoma, Kobi Taylor Miura and Naia Maka Adric each scored seven points for the JV Warriors.
Kaylee Alapai scored six points for the JV Red Raiders.