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Kouchi, Falcons shock No. 10 Kahuku, 55-49

Kalani's Kirstin Kouchi puts up a shot against Kahuku in an OIA East contest Saturday night. Greg Yamamoto | SL

KAHALA – Senior guard Kirstin Kouchi scored 19 points to lead Kalani past visiting Kahuku, 55-49, in an Oahu Interscholastic Association Eastern Division game Saturday night.

The Falcons (6-2) had 12 steals as a team to upset the 10th ranked Red Raiders (6-2).

‘As a team' was the theme as all 10 of Kalani's players that participated scored in the effort against Kahuku.

"It feels great," said Kouchi who was 5-for-9 from beyond the arc. "We worked hard all week."

Kalani competed in the Division 1 Oahu Interscholastic Association last year and dropped down to Division 2 for the 2016-2017 basketball season.

"It gives our team the confidence and the belief that we belonged," said Kalani head coach Chi Mok. "We always mention to the girls we have the talent to be a D1 team and we're still going to play like we're in D1."

The size distortion was obviously in Kahuku's favor, but that did not detour the Falcons as they came out with a Pressure defense that frustrated the Red Raiders all night. So much that Kalani forced 23 turnovers from ladies of the North Shore.

"Defensively it was to not let them pound us like Farrington did," said Kouchi about their team strategies against Kahuku. "Offensively keep shooting. If we had open shots take it and don't hesitate."

In the first quarter alone Kahuku struggled with 10 points and eight turnovers as Kalani sprinted out to a 15-10 lead. The Lady Falcons used a platoon system. At the halfway point of the first three quarters five brand new Falcons came off the bench to harass the already tired Lady Red Raiders.

The second stanza saw an offensive increase from both teams as Kahuku relied on their forward Brittni Blake to catalyze their offense as she scored eight of the Red Raiders 16 points in the quarter. Blake finished with a double-double of 19 points and 12 rebounds. Kalani countered with the three-ball as the Falcons hit four from beyond the arc. Kouchi had two 3-pointers in the quarter including one from the left corner at the 2:31 mark to give the Lady Falcons their largest lead 28-17.

Then right before the half Kouchi let loose another three that missed, but Kalani's sophomore Heidi Kishaba was there to grab the offensive rebound, step in between two Kahuku defenders, and made a buzzer beating shot to give the Falcons a 34-26 lead at the half. Kishaba finished with four points and two rebounds.

The hot shooting Lady Falcons went as cold as the winter weather as they shot 1-for-12 from the field in the 3rdquarter. "I think they (Kalani) were content with the halftime. They didn't match the energy that Kahuku came out with and got stuck just running the offense and stop looking for shots," said coach Mok.

The Red Raiders capitalized as guard Savanna Christensen scored six of her nine points in the frame. At the 3:08 mark Kahuku's Talei Niu made two free throws to tie the game at 34. Kalani was still scoreless in the quarter at this point. Niu helped her team with 10 points, six rebounds, and two steals. Then one possession later Christensen grab an offensive rebound took one step to her right and hit a jumper from the right elbow that gave the Lady Red Raiders their first lead since the first quarter.

Christensen finished with nine points, 13 rebounds, and two blocks.

Then with under a minute to go in the quarter and the Falcons still searching for their first points in the quarter Kalani's junior Kaylie Espinas tied the game with the Lady Falcon's first and only points of the quarter. Espinas ended up nine points, two rebounds, and two made 3-pointers.

With the game tied at 36 all the momentum seemed to be on the Lady Red Raiders side, but the Falcons would not be denied. The Red Raiders and Falcons went back and forth in the beginning parts of the quarter with Kahuku leading the way and Kalani relentlessly answering every score as there were five lead changes in the final stanza. Kalani's junior Logan Luke hit a 3-pointer from the left wing to tie the game at 44 with 6:39 to play in the game. Luke finished tied for second in scoring for Kalani with Espinas with nine points, and four rebounds. Kahuku broke the tie with a made free throw that set up Kouchi to take the final lead change with a 3-pointer from the right corner at the 5:19, 47-45.

Down the stretch the Lady Falcons stayed patient and got some great shots off some nice passes. One was a drive by Kalani's sophomore Daesha Viela who dished it off for fellow sophomore Kandyce Woods for the easy lay in.

"Personally, I like assisting," said Viela who ended with two points, six assists, and four steals. "It helps the other players and shows that I worked hard to help other people to score." Woods had six points and five rebounds. The Falcons waited for the Lady Red Raider fouls to come and made their free throws as they sealed the upset of Kahuku.

Kahuku ended up with a rebound advantage of 50-15, but could not overcome the tenacious Falcon defense.

"I think we're just about there with this team," coach Mok commented about being playoff ready. "With the Farrington game, they saw what they can do for three quarters. We're going to build upon these past two games, climb over the hill, and make a run into the playoffs."

The Lady Red Raiders dropped their second game of the year, but didn't fall too far behind as Kaimuki was stunned by Moanalua (4-4) for their first loss of the OIA season. Kahuku will take on the Lady Bulldogs next Wednesday 6:30 p.m. at home.

The Falcons stay atop the OIA D2 East and will take on Roosevelt (3-5) and Kaimuki (7-1) in their final two games of the season.

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