In dramatic fashion, the Molokai girls basketball team clinched the Maui Interscholastic League Division II title and advanced to the state tournament with three consecutive wins in elimination games over the weekend on Maui.
The lady Farmers had an easy time in the semifinal round, defeating Lanai last Thursday 43-11.
Then came the Spartans.
Molokai (7-2) had played Seabury Hall (7-1) four times in the regular season but only beaten them once. Because Seabury was the regular season MIL Division II champs, Molokai would now need to beat them twice to avoid elimination.
On Friday night, the lady Farmers fought off one elimination game with a 31-28 victory at Maui High gym in Kahului.
Molokai built a 24-10 halftime lead but was outscored 10-5 in the third quarter when the Spartans began their full court press. Despite missing all six of their free throws in the fourth quarter, Molokai still held on at the end.
Shaniah Mollena-Lopez led the way for Molokai with 11 points, followed by Tiara English 8, Hepuakea Falealii 4, Ilana Meyer 3, Rebecka Adolpho 3 and Lehiwa Pedro 2.
Perhaps the most exciting game of the season came on Saturday night when the Farmers were forced into overtime to claim the only MIL Division II state berth with a 53-49 win.
Again, Molokai held a halftime lead, 26-23. This time, they were able to expand on the lead with a strong third quarter, leading 36-27. But in the fourth quarter, leading 40-29 lead with under 6 minutes remaining, Seabury began its comeback.
With a few quick baskets by Shayla Hoeft, Seabury fought back. With 15 seconds left, Seabury hit a layup to tie the game at 42.
In the four-minute overtime period, Mollena-Lopez came up big, scoring eight of her 25 points to help clinch the victory.
When asked about the performance from Mollena-Lopez, Molokai Head Coach Lee DeRouin told The Maui News, “Awesome, simply awesome. Unreal. Big players step up in big games.”
Also scoring for Molokai was Camile Borden with 8 points, Hepukea Falealii 8, Tiara English 6 and Lehiwa Pedro 6.
“In all my years of coaching that was the most fantastic game to be a part of,” said DeRouin. “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.”
Seabury and Molokai ended up splitting the season series at three games apiece, but the lady Farmers found a way to win when the games counted the most.