Kaimuki hits from afar to tip Kalani, earn top seed
The script seems the same every night for the Kaimuki Bulldogs.
Battle, scrap, stay close and rain 3s until they start dropping. The Bulldogs hit 10 3-pointers, including six in the third quarter, to pull away for a 58-42 win over Kalani on Friday night at Kaimuki’s gym.
The win sealed the top seed in the Oahu Interscholastic Association East, which also gave Kaimuki (8-1) a firstround bye in the Division I playoffs. The Bulldogs were relentless defensively, limiting Kalani to 5-for-28 shooting from the arc.
“That’s a totally new defense, so sometimes we were lost. Kalani is kind of a mirror of us with great shooters,” Bulldogs coach Mona Fa‘asoa said. “They’re a great team.”
A senior-night crowd went crazy during the third when Kaelyn Espinda hit four trifectas in a row. With Sonia Palik and Sirena Titer also hitting triples, the Bulldogs went on a 19-6 run for a commanding 44-28 lead late in the third.
Two free throws by Espinda, a sophomore guard, extended the lead to 18 after three quarters. Espinda finished with a game-high 20 points, including 6-for-6 shooting at the foul line. Senior Victoria Kintz tallied 19 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. Palik finished with eight points and 12 rebounds, and Titer had eight points.
Kalani, which finished regular-season play 6-3, enters the Division II playoffs next. Kirstin Kouchi scored all 10 of her points in the fourth quarter to lead the Lady Falcons. Heidi Kishaba added nine points and Daesha
Viela had eight.
“They hit the shots. You’ve got to give them credit,” Kalani coach Chi Mok said of the Bulldogs. “I don’t know if we’ll see better shooters until states.”
Kaimuki outrebounded Kalani 36-25. In all, the Bulldogs shot 10-for-24 from 3-point range, the same number of makes and attempts from deep that they had in a big road win at Kahuku earlier in the week.
For Kintz and the seniors, winning the East added to the postgame senior celebration. Each senior thanked her parents. Kintz had an extra word for Fa‘asoa, who also received certificates of recognition a moment earlier from Gov.
Ige and the State Legislature.
“Auntie Mona, thank you,” Kintz said. “When I got cut from Mid-Pacific varsity (as a freshman), you gave me back my love for the game.”
Kaimuki exploded to a 10-1 lead in the opening minutes, and Kouchi got into early foul trouble. The visitors switched to a zone and rallied to take a 13-12 lead on a wing 3 by Kishaba. There were four lead changes in all during the second quarter. Titer’s corner 3 on a fast break gave Kaimuki a 23-20 lead going into the break.
Then came the avalanche of 3s by the ’Dogs.
“Our bigs were late getting out to the corners,” Mok said.
Kaimuki’s Victoria Kintz thwarted Kalani’s Kristin Kouchi as she went to the basket in the second half.