KAHULUI - Molokai High School's Shaniah Mollena-Lopez wasn't going to let her team lose this one.
In as dramatic a game as the Maui Interscholastic League has seen in some time in the girls ranks - at least with a title and lone state berth on the line - Mollena-Lopez poured in eight of her game-high 25 points in overtime to lead the Farmers past Seabury Hall 53-49 in front of a full Maui High gym with screaming fans on both sides of the court.
"We just had to push all the way because we really wanted this," Mollena-Lopez said. "So we just played tough 'D' and tried not to get fouls and just worked as a team."
Molokai High School players and coach Lee DeRouin celebrate a 53-49 overtime victory over Seabury Hall in the Maui Interscholastic League Division II girls basketball overall championship game on Saturday at Maui High’s gym.
The Maui News / ROBERT COLLIAS photo
A running bank shot by Mollena-Lopez gave the Farmers a 40-29 lead with 6 minutes, 25 seconds left in regulation and it remained that way until Seabury freshman Shayla Hoeft made a banker with 3:32 left.
Hoeft, who finished with 17 points in playing time limited by three early fouls, made two more short shots off the glass before Molokai's Tiara English sank a pair of free throws to push the lead back to 42-35 with 56 seconds to play.
Nani Wong made a long 3-pointer to bring the Spartans within four with 47 seconds to go. The Farmers then immediately turned the ball over, and Tiana Camarillo converted a baseline jumper to make it 42-40 with 32 seconds left.
After a scramble underneath the basket, Seabury Hall's Allie Rudow emerged with the ball and flipped it to Pili Hao Meyer, who made a layup with 15 seconds remaining to tie the game.
The Farmers (8-3) regrouped quickly in their third elimination game in three nights, including two in a row against Seabury.
"We didn't panic, we just pushed all the way," Mollena-Lopez said. "We just stayed with our defense and tried to make it pay off. Seabury, they're good."
In the four-minute overtime, the Spartans (7-3) controlled the tip and then had four point-blank shots all miss before English grabbed the rebound and fed Mollena-Lopez for a breakaway layup with 3:27 to go. Mollena-Lopez buried a 15-foot jumper on the next trip down the floor before Hoeft made another shot from the lane.
Mollena-Lopez's 3-pointer from the top of the key pushed the lead to five, but Rudow scored on a layup before both teams missed a pair of free throws. Seabury, the regular-season champion, tied the game for the 10th and final time when Wong banked in a 3-pointer with 1:15 remaining.
After Molokai, the tournament champion, ran 45 seconds off the clock, Lehiwa Pedro scored over Hoeft, was fouled and banked in the free throw for a 52-49 lead with 29 seconds left.
Fittingly, it was Mollena-Lopez who clinched it with a free throw with seven seconds remaining, setting off a furious celebration by the numerous Molokai fans in attendance in the crowd of about 500.
"This will only make us want to work harder for state," Mollena-Lopez said.
The final outcome left both coaches out of breath.
"In all my years of coaching that was the most fantastic game to be a part of," Molokai coach Lee DeRouin said. "It was unbelievable, Seabury never gave up, the Farmers never gave up, big shot after big shot by both teams. I'm so proud of my kids, my team, one true team made this happen. I love them. Hopefully we are battle-tested for states."
DeRouin's face lit up when Mollena-Lopez's name was mentioned.
"Awesome, simply awesome," DeRouin said. "Unreal. Big players step up in big games."
Seabury and Molokai split their six games this season.
"Man, it was - wow - I can't explain it," Spartans coach Rama Camarillo said. "Molokai, we played them five, six times and it was a battle each time. Our girls, they never quit, we competed until the end, and that'll be good toward our future."
Camarillo said he was impressed with the play of Mollena-Lopez.
"She's awesome, simply awesome, she's a tremendous player," Camarillo said.
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tiare English 6, Camile Borden 8, Shaniah Mollena-Lopez 25, Hepukea Falealii 8, Rebecka Adolpho 0, Ilana Meyer 0, Lehiwa Pedro 6.
SEABURY HALL (49)
Tehani Akina Ancog 2, Ellie Bega 0, Allie Rudow 9, Rui Li Inge 0, Tiana Camarillo 8, Pili Hao Meyer 4, Tiare Camarillo 0, Shayla Hoeft 17, Nani Wong 9.