KAHULUI - Trailing after three quarters but with a spot in the state tournament still within reach, the Maui High School girls basketball ignited.
The Sabers scored 24 points in the final period and defeated King Kekaulike 48-44 on Thursday at the Maui High gym, reaching the Maui Interscholastic League Division I tournament final and sewing up a trip to Oahu.
Christina Lotulelei finished with 25 points for the Sabers (9-4), who will play regular-season champion Lahainaluna today.
Maui High School coach Gilbert Silva and the Sabers bench react to a basket during the fourth quarter of a 48-44 victory over King Kekaulike on Thursday in a Maui Interscholastic League Division I tournament semifinal game in Kahului.
The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo
Maui High's Liana Tanaka added 10 of her 13 points in the final quarter, which began with King Kekau-like (6-7) leading 32-24.
"I'm really excited to go to states," said Tanaka, who was still shaking in the minutes after the close win. "I was glad at the end that all our hard work paid off."
Tanaka produced the first score of the game with a three-point play, then was quiet for a long stretch.
MIL Tournaments At Maui High
Lahainaluna 63, Baldwin 24
Maui High 48, King Kekaulike 44
Lahainaluna vs. King Kekaulike, 7 p.m.
Molokai 43, Lanai 11
Molokai vs. Seabury Hall, 5:30 p.m.
She returned with a vengeance, however, hitting two 3-pointers that cut Na Alii's lead to two. On the next play, she intercepted a pass and finished with a layup, tying the game at 39-39.
"It was exciting and I was happy because we were down by so much," she said.
After a Na Alii timeout and with the crowd rocking, the Sabers produced another steal and guard Trina Valencia finished the fast break with a three-point play to put Maui High in front with less than three minutes left.
The Sabers would not look back, thanks to another steal by Tanaka and key points by Lotulelei to close the game.
"We gave up the momentum with some of the turnovers," said King Kekaulike coach Mark Fernandez. "We also got into foul trouble, some of our key players got into foul trouble so we had to sub in and go into a zone situation."
Na Alii, who had led by as many as 12, had three players reach double digits in points, led by Cameron Fernandez, who had 14. Dasya Tavares added 11 and Taylor Fernandez had 10.
Maui High coach Gilbert Silva said conditioning was a key component in the game, with Tanaka and Lotulelei playing nearly the entire way.
"They had us going in the third quarter," Silva said. "So I told our girls that we worked so hard throughout the year. Fortunately we started to score and the momentum started to swing to our side."
The Sabers trailed after each of the first three quarters.
"I told them we're still in the game," Silva said of his halftime speech.
"We had too many fouls, they were making the free throws, and we were making turnovers So I told them, 'If you guys continue to do this, we're not going to be successful. So you change, and the game will change.' "
Maui High went 0-3 against Lahainaluna in the regular season.
"We'll come out tomorrow night," said Silva. "We'll come out and play a hundred percent. As much as we played tonight, and maybe even harder. It's not all done for us."
* Chris Sugidono is at firstname.lastname@example.org
MAUI HIGH GIRLS 48, KING KEKAULIKE 44
KING KEKAULIKE (44)
Brooks Carillo 3, Ariana Valdez 0, Maile Naito 0, Karlee Peters 0, Cameron Fernandez 14, Brandi Carillo 4, Dasya Tavares 11, Linzee Buwa 0, Taylor Fernandez 10, Sylvania Amor 2.
MAUI HIGH (48)
Liana Tanaka 13, Trina Valencia 7, Jamilyn Tamura 0, Jo'voni Shimabukuro 0, Nicole Pagan-Eldredge 3, Brittnie Suda-Molina 0, Christina Lotulelei 25.