OIA RED GIRLS CHAMPIONSHIP
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Kalani's Chloe Martin, right, picked up a loose ball and blew by Radford's Itali Lindsey last night at McKinley High School.
Transfer Rodrigues helps Falcons soar
Those decisions to go to Kalani are looking pretty good right about now for coach George Weeks and forward Iwalani Rodrigues.
Rodrigues, a senior transfer from Roosevelt, scored 12 points and hit all four of her free-throw attempts in the final minute to help the Falcons clinch the school's first Oahu Interscholastic Association Red Division title in a 35-27 win over previously unbeaten Radford last night at McKinley's Student Council Gym.
It's Kalani's first Division I title but second OIA championship overall; the Falcons took the inaugural OIA White title in 2006 under Darold Imanaka, and were consequently bumped up to the Red.
"I feel even more ... I don't know how to put it ... gratified," said Rodrigues, a 5-foot-10 small forward. "It was kind of hard for me to switch schools, but for them to welcome me with open arms, and we all get along, and that's what I thought we needed, you know? Everybody wants the same goal and we accomplished it. It feels super."
After trailing the No. 6 Falcons nearly the whole game, the closest the No. 3 Lady Rams got after halftime was 29-25 on a three-point play by Marlena Malepeai with 6 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Rhianna Farm answered with a big basket off the backboard while falling to the ground, and the Falcons kept the ball in Rodrigues' hands down the stretch.
"You know, Kalani gave me a chance, and I just really appreciate the chance that they gave me," said Weeks, who is originally from Hawaii but was coaching on the mainland up to last year. "I applied at a couple of different places, I just have a love for the game and a love for coaching. I love being around and working with the kids."
Kalani committed 20 turnovers in what he rated a "C" game offensively (40 percent shooting), but he was proud of his team's ability to shut down Radford's dangerous post game.
"I think the defense is what kept us in it," he said. "So I'm happy for that."
Kalani held Radford to 27 percent from the field.
The Lady Rams (14-1) were usually the most physically imposing team in their geographical division in rolling to a perfect regular-season record, but they met their match in the OIA postseason at the worst possible time, falling in the title game for the second straight year.
With an effective 2-3 defensive formation applied all game long, the Falcons (13-2) forced Radford out of its comfort zone of baskets in the paint, including putbacks on offensive rebounds. Rodrigues and post players Farm and Violet Alama combined for 22 rebounds, one less than the whole Radford team, and they severely limited the Rams' second-chance opportunities.
Playing from behind for most of the game was also a different experience for the Rams, whose best tight-game experience came Wednesday in the semifinals against Roosevelt.
"It's hard to prepare for that," Radford coach Tani Dutro said. "The other night we had a close game, and that was good for us to prepare, but one game is not enough. It's all about being ready up here mentally and holding your composure. We hadn't been in this kind of game in a while, since preseason."
Kalani's zone forced Radford into 15-foot jumpers or worse, and without an effective zone-buster, that spelled trouble.
Radford closed the first half on a 6-2 run to trail by just three at halftime, but Kalani repeatedly flustered the Rams with a full-court trap to open the third quarter -- Radford committed nine of its 14 turnovers in the period before Ta Nitra Byrd ended the drought with two baskets.
Byrd, a 6-foot center and Radford's best player, scored the first basket of the game but was held to only those two field goals the rest of the way against Kalani's tough front line. She and Marsharen Dupont tied for team-high honors with six points.
"They were forcing us to shoot outside a lot," Byrd said. "Our shots just weren't falling. We played hard, we went out there, we gave it our all."
At McKinley H.S. gym
KALANI -- Chloe Martin 3, Ashlyn Onaga 9, Iwalani Rodrigues 12, Rhianna Farm 5, Violet Alama 4, Tiare Ma'afala 0, Jamie Higa 2, Brandi Yamauchi 0.
RADFORD -- Marlena Malepeai 5, Brittini Fuller 4, Chelsea-Ann Villanueva 4, Marsharen Dupont 6, Ta Nitra Byrd 6, Bui Baravilala 0, Itali Lindsey 2.
3-point goals -- Kalani 2 (Martin, Onaga), Radford none.
Campbell 35, Castle 32, OT
Aloha Dias-Kekahuna scored 14 points to lead the Sabers past the Knights in overtime to win third place in the OIA White division. Campbell clinched a Division II state tournament berth with the victory.
At Campbell H.S. gym
CASTLE -- Kori Berinobis 8, Nicki Kobashigawa 6, Kelsea Berinobis 0, Leisha Liilii 10, Leesha Domingo 4, Nicole Aberilla 0, Kree Espinda 2, Candy Ames 2.
CAMPBELL -- Ama Lui 0, Jazmin Brown 0, Ariel Medlin 5, Vai Confer 2, Aloha Dias-Kekahuna 14, Amber Kaulia 7, Kaitlynn Simmonds 7.
3-point goals -- Castle 1 (Ko. Berinobis), Campbell none.