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HBA Claims Girls Basketball State Championship
Ryan Su

Photo credit: ESPN Honolulu

For the first time since 2019 and the third time in seven years, HBA sits atop the state for Division 2 girls basketball.

The Eagles defeated upstart Sacred Hearts Academy 41-28 on February 19 at the Neal Blaisdell Center to complete an inspiring, if unlikely, run to the title.

As an unseeded team entering the Heide and Cook/HHSAA State Tournament, HBA had to play four games in four days.  The team was also coming off of three consecutive double-digit losses to finish the regular season.  Over the final weeks of the season and through the losing streak, several key players were either nursing injuries or unable to play altogether.

But the ten day respite between a blowout 45-23 loss to Sacred Hearts in the regular season finale and the start of the tourney proved invaluable.  Players continued to rehabilitate, return to limited action, and progress toward full participation.

HBA opened the tournament with a 53-30 victory over Pearl City.  Senior Emi Wada led the Eagles with 14 points, while fellow senior Hayley Taka and sophomore Kaitlyn Maruya both added 10 points apiece.  Five different players on the team collectively made eight three-pointers in the game.

In the quarter-finals, HBA edged KIF champion Kauai 34-29 with junior Joey Lin pacing the team with 12 points and 12 rebounds.  Taka contributed 14 points and 6 boards.  Both of the first two games were played at Waipahu High School.

In the semi-finals at Kalani High School, HBA trailed defending champion Hanalani 25-23 entering the fourth quarter.  However, Wada scored 11 of her team-high 15 points and HBA outscored the Royals in the final period 13-5 to win 35-29.  Lin contributed 12 points, 9 rebounds, 1 steal and 2 blocked shots, while Taka had 2 points, 6 rebounds and also had a steal with 2 blocked shots.

The championship final at the Blaisdell Arena saw the Eagles struggle out of the gates.  Lin went 0-4 from the free throw line and HBA shot 1-11 from the field as a team.  Still, they trailed only 5-2 after the dismal first quarter.  Thereafter, the Eagles found their stride offensively.  Wada and junior Careah Baitlon drained three-pointers, while Taka made a baseline shot and finished a drive for a bucket.  When Lin made a lefty layup, the Eagles led 16-9 on their way to a 16-14 halftime lead.

Lin began the pivotal third quarter by converting on 4 straight free throws.  Maruya and Baitlon both made three-pointers from the left corner.  Then Wada found senior Alyssa Young for a basket and an and-1.  By the time the period was done, the Eagles had gone on a 15-3 run to take a 31-17 lead into the final period.

From there, HBA was able to manage the game clock and possess the ball, while continuing to deny the Lancers any clean looks from three.  Contributing free throws to help salt away the game were Taka, Wada, and junior Trislyn Maeda and freshman Sierra Ramos.

The team is coached by Robin Yamaguchi '77, Isaac Hayashi '09, Arjay Gruspe, Candice Chun, and Bryson Ho.  Congratulations to all of our Eagles!