HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL
Wildcats celebrate second title in 4 years
In the wee hours of the night, all was well with the Wildcat Nation.
Back home, fans cheered and celebrated Konawaena's girls basketball state championship win over Punahou.
In Honolulu, the Wildcat players spent a quiet night together. No big party or loud noise. Just another night on the road in their roundball, globe-trotting lives.
With the 59-47 win over Punahou, coach Bobbie Awa and assistant coach Donald Awa, her husband, have now guided the 'Cats to two state titles in the last four years. For the Awas, coaching daughters, sons and nieces in age-group levels has been a way of life since the early 1990s.
Even when the state tournament was done, Donald Awa had a tournament to take his son and other young players to. Nothing fancy. Just an impromptu menu of four games set up by friends who coach age-group teams in Honolulu.
That's the benefit of coaching on the Big Island, where manpower is scarce and dedicated folks like the Awas can empower youngsters to succeed in class and on the court.
Jessica Hanato, a former All-State player, was the first of the Awa ohana to achieve status in the Nissan Hall of Honor two years ago. Yesterday, her cousin, Jazzmin Awa-Williams, was named to the Hall.
Awa-Wiliams scored 15 points and grabbed nine boards in the title-game win, but her best asset may be an immeasurable. Leadership off the court -- closeness and chemistry -- are possibly the biggest ingredients to Konawaena's consistent success.
Liana Hanato-Smith started playing for the Awas and their club team, the Stingrays, as a 5-year-old.
"She couldn't even reach the rim (with a shot)," Donald Awa said.
On Friday, her four first-half 3-point bombs set the tone for Konawaena, a school of roughly 800 students.
"Bobbie and Donny do so much. There's so much respect," Punahou coach Mike Taylor said. "They do such a great job."
Teams like Konawaena and Honokaa, with smaller enrollments and dedicated athletes, have a lot of love for the game.
"Every day in the offseason, they know what they're supposed to do. By 2:45, they're already in the weight room or doing the (plyometric drills on) boxes," Bobbie Awa said. "I never have to push them."
Mana Hopkins, who was a nervous freshman two years ago, exploded for 26 points in the final. Many of those points came on transition drives to the hoop.
"You feel good about those kids like Mana, who grow up and learn how to take initiative," Taylor said.
Konawaena completed its dream season with an overall record of 25-1.
Punahou was almost as remarkable in many ways after losing All-State players Shawna-Lei Kuehu and Shaena-Lyn Kuehu. The Buffanblu also lost guard Ciana Aiwohi at midseason and guard Ilima Macfarlane during the tourney. All four suffered knee injuries.
"We attacked adversity the right way. You can't cry about it. All you can do is lace up your shoes tighter and go to work," Taylor said.