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Konawaena and Molokai girls give neighbor isles a title sweep


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POSTED: Saturday, February 28, 2009

Don't ever underestimate the neighbor islands, especially in girls basketball. Three out of the four finalists were non-Oahu teams last night in the state championships, and, for the second time in three years, the neighbors swept.

This is now three state championships in six years for Konawaena, after an epic 54-50 double-overtime win over Punahou, which has the other three since 2004.

Konawaena, athletic and young.

Punahou, small but gritty and unflappable.

Both superbly coached, making for a great matchup. And the rivalry continues.

The Twins are gone, and Punahou's best player is Janelle Nomura, a tireless pass-first guard. Pass-first, except when her team needs a clutch bucket, like the one she hit to tie it and send it to OT. The Buffanblu battled back from down 40-29 in the fourth quarter.

But Kona's precocious freshman Lia Galdeira—who finished with 23 points—reasserted herself in the overtimes.

“;She's young, and you can see her youth at times,”; Wildcats coach Bobbie Awa said. “;But she has a big heart and she's a winner. I'm happy to have her three more years.”;

As for the Molokai Lady Farmers, talk about your road to nowhere leading to somewhere after all.

You want travel stories? Molokai guard Danna-Lynn Hooper-Juario's got plenty.

“;Once, we had a 4-hour delay going to Lanai. Another time, going to Hana the bus broke down, and we had to skip a game.”;

The ride to Hana is bad enough as it is—the twists and curves have ejected lunch from cast-iron stomachs.

Imagine playing a basketball game at the end of the journey.

Oh, and don't forget the 2-hour ferry ride on the front end to get to Lahaina.

But that's life for the Molokai Lady Farmers, who outlasted Kamehameha-Hawaii for the Division II championship 45-42.

Even their league road games sometimes required overnight stays on a different island. They're the only team on Molokai, and they play in the Maui Interscholastic League.

“;This is our 22nd game,”; Farmers coach Douglas Furlong said. “;Three of them have been at home.”;

The Farmers didn't stay at a hotel for the state tournament. They were guests at Kamehameha's campus. The team stayed where it normally does on the road—in another school's wrestling room.

“;We bring air beds, lots of pillows,”; Hooper-Juario said. “;We don't bring any fancy clothes, because we're not going anywhere.”;

“;We travel everywhere, for almost every game,”; said sophomore center Kalei Adolpho, she of 19 rebounds and 21 points, including the game-winning basket with 12 seconds left. “;This wasn't anything new.”;

A state championship is, though. This is the first for Molokai in a girls team sport.

And it's especially poignant when you remember it was 20 years ago when Molokai High School's volleyball players, many also basketball players, died in an airplane crash.

It reminds us that high school teams often don't win championships just for themselves, but for those before them.