By BILL O’REAR
Tribune-Herald sports editor
KEAAU — Hilo High School’s Drew Kell doesn’t always get a lot of attention for his basketball skills. But on Saturday night, the steady Kell played one of the best games of his varsity career while leading the Vikings to a hard-fought 41-37 win over Kamehameha to claim the East Division’s top seed in the upcoming league playoffs.
About 650 fans watched the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division I basketball game at the Warriors’ gym.
In the final East Division I standings, No. 1 seed Hilo (10-2) was followed by No. 2 Waiakea (9-3), No. 3 Kamehameha (8-4) and No. 4 Keaau (6-6). In the final West Division I standings, Konawaena (10-0) was the No. 1 seed and Kealakehe (3-7) No. 2.
The BIIF’s six-team D-I playoffs start at 7 p.m. Wednesday with Kealakehe hosting Kamehameha and Waiakea hosting Keaau. Top seeds Hilo and Konawaena draw byes and play in the semifinals Friday at Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium.
Konawaena will face the Waiakea/Keaau winner at 6 p.m., followed by Hilo vs. the Kealakehe/Kamehameha winner at 7:30 p.m. The semifinal winners will then meet Saturday for the BIIF title and league’s top seed in the state D-I tournament. The BIIF will send two teams to states, slated Feb. 20-23 in Honolulu.
Kell, a 6-foot junior and star quarterback on the Vikings’ football team, had nine points, nine rebounds, three steals, three assists and a clutch blocked shot on a potential game-tying 3-pointer with :23 remaining in a terrific all-around performance.
“I wasn’t really trying to block the shot,” Kell said after the tough contest against the fired-up Warriors, who celebrated Senior Night. “I just tried to get my hand up and bother him.”
But once Kell rejected the trey attempt, junior teammate Jalen Carvalho was fouled and went to the free-throw line, where he hit one of two charity shots to stretch the lead to 41-37 at the :20 mark. The Warriors tried to attack again and Hilo’s defense held a final time before the clock ran out on the hustling hosts.
“It’s a big win for us,” Kell said. “We knew we needed to play as a team tonight, and everybody stepped up to play their roles.”
Senior guard Kamu Patnuade led Hilo with 12 points, including 10 in the second half, and turned in an excellent defensive game while hounding dangerous Warrior scorer La’a Manliguis. The energetic Viking also had four rebounds and four steals.
Carvalho, the sharpshooting southpaw who was the main focus of Kamehameha’s defense all evening, finished with nine points, including two treys. He also had a game-high 10 rebounds as the Vikings outrebounded the Warriors in the physical contest — a solidly officiated game that gave both teams a fair shot at winning.
But Kell’s early spark on offense — he scored Hilo’s first six points, rugged rebounding, tough defense and two timely assists in the second half were keys to the visitors building a 31-21 lead through three periods. On his assists, he attacked the basket in transition and then fed Patnaude for an easy layup and then Jacob Genegabus for another two-pointer in the final 2:53 of the third quarter.
“I felt comfortable tonight on offense,” Kell said. “I was looking to be a threat and score if I was open. But my main job is to give my teammates opportunities — and to rebound and play defense.”
Hilo led 10-8 at the end of the first period and 23-12 at the intermission. Then after outscoring Kamehameha 9-8 in a defensive battle in the third quarter, the Vikings held off the Warriors for the important win despite being outpointed 16-10 in the eight-minute frame.
Still, it was Hilo’s defense late in the contest that made a difference, especially when Kamehameha had a chance to tie in the last :27 and came up empty as Kell & Co. denied them a quality shot attempt.
“We knew they were going to look for the three,” Kell said. “Coach matched us up on defense and we tried to lock down on them. I’m glad it worked out for us. It was a good team effort tonight.”
Manliguis, a junior, led the Warriors with nine points, including an NBA distance trey with 1:02 remaining in the game to pull the hosts to within 38-35. But Patnaude answered with a free throw on the Vikings’ next possession to make it 39-35.
Senior Shaun Kagawa, who struggled shooting the ball all night, then hit a high-flying layup at :38 to slice the Hilo cushion to 39-37.
Viking junior point guard Austin Dante was fouled at :35 and calmly swished two free throws to extend the visitors’ lead to 40-37. And that set the stage for Hilo’s biggest defensive stand of the night as Kell stepped up and blocked a trey attempt by Kamehameha’s Pukana Vincent.
Carvalho then followed with his clutch free throw to close scoring.
Kagawa finished with seven points, six in the second half, to go along with six rebounds, five steals and four assists. Vincent, a 5-11 freshman, added seven points, all after the intermission when the Warriors needed an offensive spark. Junior forward Micah Carter had six points and six rebounds for the hosts.
Dante also had five assists and four rebounds while often being guarded by the athletic Kagawa, one of the best defensive players in the state.
After the game, the Warriors and their fans honored seniors Kagawa, Ilikai Calip and Arden Costales. Each spoke to the fans and then took their final shot. Kagawa drew the biggest applause for bouncing the ball high off the floor and then dunking it. But that applause still wasn’t as big as the screaming that followed his giving a friend flowers and asking her to the prom — and her accepting — as he spoke to the crowd on the PA system before throwing down the dunk.
In other regular-season finales Saturday, it was: Konawaena 72, Kohala 56; Honokaa 52, Hawaii Prep 42; Waiakea 49, Keaau 43; and Pahoa 47, St. Joseph 13.
In junior-varsity action, Hilo defeated Kamehameha 41-33 behind 13 points from Jordan Caogdan and eight from Trevor Castro. Dayson Alip led the Warriors with six points.
Hilo 10 13 8 10 — 41
Kamehameha 8 4 9 16 — 37
Division II playoffs
The BIIF’s six-team D-II playoffs start at 7 p.m. Wednesday with West No. 2 seed Kohala hosting East No. 3 St. Joseph and East No. 2 Ka’u hosting West No. 3 Honokaa. West top seed Hawaii Prep and East top seed Pahoa draw first-round byes.
In the D-II semifinals Friday at Hilo Civic, Hawaii Prep will face the Ka’u/Honokaa winner at 3 p.m., followed by Pahoa vs. the Kohala/St. Joseph winner at 4:30 p.m. The semifinal winners then battle for the BIIF title and league’s No. 1 seed in the state D-II tournament at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Civic.
The state D-II tournament will run concurrently with the D-I tournament, scheduled Feb. 20-23 on Oahu. The BIIF will send two teams to the state D-II event.
• Konawaena 72, Kohala 56: At Kealakekua, Nick Mims scored 19 of his game-high 23 points in the first half as the Wildcats (10-0) capped a perfect BIIF regular season.
Mims drained three 3-pointers, helping the Wildcats race to a 22-8 lead after one quarter. Senior Brenton Shropshire added 15 points for coach Donny Awa’s experienced squad.
Seniors Makani Kualii and Kalai Salis-Kapeliela each scored 14 points for the visiting Cowboys (6-4)
Kohala 8 22 11 15 — 56
Konawaena 22 18 18 14 — 72
• Waiakea 49, Keaau 43: At Keaau, the Warriors (9-3) prevailed over the Cougars (6-6). No information was reported on the game.
• Honokaa 52, Hawaii Prep 42: At Honokaa Armory, Alika Alip scored a game-high 18 points and Isaiah Meyer added nine for the host Dragons (5-5).
Nicolas Palleschi and Jovan Crnic scored 11 and eight points, respectively, to lead the Ka Makani.
Hawaii Prep 14 4 7 17 — 42
Honokaa 16 8 13 15 — 52
• Pahoa 47, St. Joseph 13: At Pahoa, Randin Napeahi scored 10 points as the Daggers (7-5) finished the regular season with a winning record.
Freshman Cole DeSilva scored seven points for the young Cardinals.
St. Joseph 2 2 4 5—13
Pahoa 6 10 11 20—47