By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
KEAAU — Nick Fisher provided the firepower, along with tag-team partner Isaac Ekau, and libero Anthony Mesa-Serrano turned into a blanket, showing the type of offensive-and-defensive balance that Pahoa’s game is built on.
Fisher jumped on a trampoline and drilled 21 kills, Ekau added 11 kills and Mesa-Serrano scrambled everywhere for 18 digs to carry the Daggers over Ka‘u 25-18, 25-19, 25-19 in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II volleyball championship on Saturday night at Koai‘a Gym.
Pahoa (11-5) and No. 2 seed Hawaii Prep (11-3), the BIIF regular-season outright champion, have berths to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state tournament, which will be held Thursday-Saturday at Blaisdell Arena on Oahu.
Ka‘u (8-8) will host Oahu Interscholastic Association No. 3 Campbell at 3 p.m. Monday in a state play-in match.
It was almost a double BIIF title-winning accomplishment for coach Josh Ortega, who led the Ka‘u girls team to the school’s first championship last October. The Trojan boys last went to state tournament in 2005.
Pahoa went to states last year as the league’s No. 3 team. The Daggers last won the BIIF championship in 2010, when they finished second at the state tourney.
The Trojans have relied on teamwork, and the play of senior middle blocker Donald Garo Jr., the reigning Player of the Year last season in Red division. Garo finished with 20 kills and Cameron Enriques contributed seven kills.
“We use the word investment. It’s what you do on and off the court and throughout the day,” Ortega said. “It’s working as a team and for each other. Garo has been pretty good for us all season, and Cameron Enriques and setter Brian Gascon. The strength of our team is our defense. We’re quick, read blocks and close open seams and get to balls.”
The Daggers also point to defense as their strong suit, especially the play of Mesa-Serrano, part of the team’s senior trio with Fisher and Ekau.
“Our leader on the court is Anthony,” said first-year Pahoa coach Wayne Bidal, the junior varsity coach the previous three years. “He’s a dig machine. He can do everything, passing and digging. When he’s having a good game, everything falls into place.
“All of the kids are tight. They’ve known each other since they were little kids. They’re all together as one.”
Besides better balance, the Daggers also played much cleaner ball, committing far less unforced errors (hitting, serving, ball-handling) than the Trojans, who had 34 giveaway points to Pahoa’s 18 unforced errors.
In the first set, Garo pounded seven kills, including three from the back row, but Pahoa fired bullets from two guns. Fisher clobbered eight kills while Ekau added five as the second left-side hitter.
And whenever Garo didn’t find the floor, Mesa-Serrano was there to make a nice dig and send a clean pass to setter Joseph Lefiti, who adhered to the old adage, “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” He kept feeding Fisher and Ekau and they continued to put down balls.
In the second set, Mesa-Serrano’s defense shined. He kept popping up balls, accounting for 12 digs, including four in a long rally. It ended when Lefiti sent down a dump shot for a 23-19 lead
Previous to that point, the Trojans hurt themselves with three straight service errors, negating their chance to make scoring runs. Fisher was nearly unstoppable, again, clobbering nine kills in the set.
The third set was close for a moment, Pahoa ahead 17-15. Then Ekau stepped to the service line and served tough, helping the Daggers to a five-point run and a 23-15 lead.
Ka‘u closed to within 24-19 on an Enriques ace sandwiched between two hitting errors. But a Trojan hitting error ended the match and handed the BIIF title to the Daggers.