By JOE FERRARO
KAILUA-KONA — Blaine-Allen Manliguis didn’t know if his tip-in beat the buzzer or not. A mob of teammates rushing toward him to celebrate gave Manliguis the answer he wanted Wednesday night at Kealakehe.
Manliguis tipped in Ina Teofilo’s missed layup, giving Kamehameha-Hawaii’s boys basketball team a dramatic 57-56 win over Kealakehe in the first round of the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division I tournament.
“It felt unreal,’’ Manliguis said. “I didn’t know what to do after I made that shot — except look at my teammates running at me.’’
Manliguis’ buzzer beater gave the Warriors (9-4) a berth in Friday’s BIIF Division I semifinals at Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium, where they will face East division top seed Hilo (10-2).
The Waveriders, who ended their season 3-8, seemed poised to pull off a major upset.
Keanu Tilfas’ putback of Deion Utrera’s missed 3-pointer gave Kealakehe a 54-51 lead with 50 seconds left, and Kealakehe maintained that advantage after the Warriors’ Micah Carter missed the front end of a one-and-one four seconds later.
But senior Shaun Kagawa, who scored 20 points despite battling a toe injury, gave the Warriors life, turning a turnover into a layup with 33 seconds left to make it 54-53. Then Teofilo’s spinning layup with 12 seconds left tied it at 55.
Kealakehe’s Manase Hungalu, who scored 18 points along with Utrera, then split a pair of free throws with 6.1 seconds left that set the stage for Manliguis’ tip-in.
The Waveriders put on a full-court press on the ensuing possession, and Kamehameha beat it — just as it did earlier in the quarter, when Kagawa and Teofilo made layups for go-ahead baskets.
Because Kamehameha had fared well against full-court pressure against Oahu Interscholastic Association teams Kalaheo and Kapolei in the preseason, Warriors coach Dominic Pacheco was confident his team would fare well against the Waveriders.
“I’m glad they tried to press,’’ Pacheco said. “They were pressing, and we were getting layups.’’
Because the Warriors didn’t fare well shooting the ball from the perimeter, Pacheco stressed pushing the pace in the second half.
“You have to rely on defense and the transition break,’’ he said.
Kagawa was a big part of that, and he didn’t even start the contest because of his toe injury. But the senior, who has verbally committed to play football at West Point, came off the bench after the Waveriders took an early 6-0 lead.
“Our shooting wasn’t that great, so we had to take it to the hole,’’ Kagawa said.
But Kealakehe led most of the game behind Utrera and Hungalu.
Utrera has long been Kealakehe’s main offensive threat, and he didn’t disappoint in the first half, showing a formidable inside-out game and scoring 10 points.
Hungalu displayed a variety of post moves and aggressively muscled his way to the basket for 14 first-half points.
The duo of Utrera and Hungalu helped give the Waveriders a 33-29 lead.
“He’s improved by leaps and bounds,’’ Waveriders assistant coach Sonny Guerra said of Hungalu, who has signed a National Letter of Intent to play football at Oregon State. “He improved every day.’’
It’s something Guerra can say for the entire team, which entered the season with just one returning starter in Utrera.
“I’m proud of them,’’ Guerra said.
The Warriors were in the same boat, returning just one starter in Kagawa when the season began. Now they face a Hilo team for the third time this season.
In two regular-season games against the Vikings, Kamehameha lost 59-58 and 41-37.
“They know what we do, and we know what they do,’’ Pacheco said. “It comes down to who wants it more.’’
Kamehameha 17 12 10 18 — 57
Kealakehe 20 13 8 15 — 56