Sabers preserve state hopes
WAILUKU – Jordyn Vega knew it was time. Her Maui High School girls basketball teammates followed her lead.
“We really wanted to win, that was the main thing,” Vega said after the Sabers rallied for a 41-37 victory over King Kekaulike in the semifinals of the Maui Interscholastic League Division I tournament Thursday at the Baldwin gym. “We were prepared, so we just had to push. The girls came out nervous a little bit. When it came second half we finally settled down.”
The result sends the Sabers (7-6) to the tournament final tonight against Lahainaluna, which won its 91st league game in a row over Baldwin in the first semifinal.
There will be an MIL playoff game on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Maui High can force a winner-take-all championship game with the Lunas if the Sabers win tonight. A Lahainaluna victory would force Maui High into a playoff game with King Kekaulike for the second state-tournament spot.
The Sabers and Na Alii (8-5) have each won twice in their four-game season series so far.
“We are up and up with them,” Vega said after she scored 11 of her 14 points in the second half.
Maui High trailed 22-14 at halftime, but opened the second half on a 22-6 run keyed by its zone defense.
“We were playing several different zones against them because we knew that they can shoot the ball, so we extended our zone, tried to block out and get more rebounds,” said Sabers coach Gilbert Silva. “That didn’t happen in the first half. I told the girls, ‘Don’t panic, you just have to buckle down. We have been doing this for a week, so you know the different zones that we have.’
“What we wanted to do was stop their perimeter shots. They made some 3s, but we did stop them. Our plan was get the rebound and break for the transition.”
After falling behind 36-28 on a nifty drive to the basket by Vega with 2:33 to play, Na Alii climbed back within 38-34 when Sylvania Amor scored off an assist from Brandi Carillo with 43 seconds left.
It would not be that close again until Maile Naito hit a 3-pointer for King Kekaulike with 10 seconds left for the final points of the game.
Liana Tanaka scored 10 points for the Sabers, including six in the final quarter on a 3-of-4 performance from the free-throw line and a 3-pointer.
Tonight, the top-ranked team in the state awaits for Maui High.
“Our goal is to win the tournament and to win the overall championship,” Silva said. “We’re not going to back down against Lahainaluna. We will come out fighting tomorrow, see what we can do. If we beat them we play them again for the overall championship, that’s our goal. If we are not successful, then we will get ready for King Kekaulike.”
Brooks Carillo scored 12 points for King Kekaulike, while Brandi Carillo added 11.
Na Alii have been to the girls state basketball tournament just once, in 2011.
“Maui High came out with a zone and they ran it well,” said King Kekaulike coach Cy Peters. “We had trouble getting good shots off. But all that being said, we have got to play defense ourselves. Our best offense comes from our defense.”
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com
MAUI HIGH (41)
Jasmine Cabajar 3, Liana Tanaka 10, Jordyn Vega 14, Gillen Llanez 0, Kuulei Bailey 2, Jennica Tamura 0, Nicole Pagan-Eldridge 5, Brittnie Suda-Molina 5, Emma Hanlon 2.
KING KEKAULIKE (37)
Maile Naito 3, Brooks Carillo 12, Dasya Tavares 2, Linzee Buwa 0, Danielle Higashi 0, Brandi Carillo 11, Keiolani Falcum 0, Karlee Peters 3, Sylvania Amor 6.