By JOE FERRARO
KEALAKEKUA — It was a goal that Jared Komo and many others thought shouldn’t have counted.
The Makua Lani boys soccer coach saw zeroes on the game clock when the center referee called a handball as Konawaena’s Gerardo Meneses dribbled into the penalty box, leading to Gabriel Magana’s penalty kick conversion just before halftime — the lone goal in the Wildcats’ 1-0 Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II tournament first-round win Tuesday at Julian Yates Field.
The victory put the Wildcats (9-3-2) into the BIIF semifinals, where they will face Hawaii Prep (12-1) at 3 p.m. Thursday in Waimea. For the Lions (7-5-2), the loss meant the end of the season.
But as controversial as the goal may have been, Komo emphatically emphasized one point after his team’s loss: Konawaena was the better team on this day.
“Konawaena earned it,’’ Komo said. “I didn’t think it was cheap. You can’t say they were lucky.’’
The statistics in the match support Komo’s statement.
The Wildcats outshot the Lions 7-4 and had nine corner kicks.
Even though Konawaena coach Keahi Fleming said the team could have done better finishing, the trio of Meneses, John Replogle and Mario Malagon allowed Konawaena to control the ball on Makua Lani’s half of the field for long stretches.
“We could have connected some (more) passes, but it was an improvement,’’ Fleming said.
Fleming made wholesale lineup changes before the team’s regular-season finale against Kealakehe on Thursday, moving Coran Yamamoto from the midfield to goalkeeper, Replogle from forward to midfield and Malagon to center mid.
Fleming said Replogle, who scored 19 goals as a forward, voluntarily moved to midfielder to create scoring chances for others.
Those changes led to a 0-0 draw against a Waveriders team that entered the match 12-0.
The effort against the rival Waveriders, Magana said, gave the team a confidence boost going into its BIIF playoff match against the Lions.
“That’s what got us really motivated,’’ Magana said.
Magana anchored a back line that kept Lions’ scoring chances to a minimum.
In the 29th minute, senior Elijah Lingenfelder, who has scored a team-high 17 goals this season, unleashed a 35-yard blast that clanged off the crossbar. Then in the 75th minute, Genesis Marks ripped a shot from near the top of the penalty box that whistled just wide of the left goalpost.
Other than that, the Wildcats’ kept the Lions’ attack under wraps, with Yamamoto earning the shutout.
Meanwhile, Konawaena almost made it 2-0 in the 72nd minute, when officials called the Wildcats offside as Meneses buried a close-range shot into the lower-left corner of the goal. Six minutes earlier, Ivan Rodriguez unleashed an 18-yard shot that dribbled just wide of the left post.
“I think we controlled the second half,’’ Magana said.
Makua Lani sweeper Keawe Alapai did an admirable job clearing balls out of the box on several of the Wildcats’ corner kicks.
“For Keawe to control the back, he couldn’t have been better,’’ Komo said.
Komo, who coached the Lions to the state tournament last year, came away pleased with his team’s season overall.
“One game doesn’t define a season,’’ he said. “You have to play hard and have no regrets.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this team.’’
Christian Liberty 5, Kamehameha 0: Junior Louis Moylan netted a hat trick and junior Nakaiya Kerr added two goals at Paiea Stadium in Keaau as the Canefire advanced to the BIIF Division II semifinals.
Seeking their second straight trip to the final, the Canefire (10-3-1) will visit an old nemesis, Honokaa (10-2-1), at 6 p.m. Thursday night. The Dragons beat Christian Liberty in the championship game last year and in 2010. Honokaa is hosting the match because of a 3-2 victory against the Canefire last Friday.
Moylan, who didn’t scored as his team dropped its final two matches of the regular season, has 19 goals.
Senior Keanu Bergfeld shut out the Warriors (4-7-3) in goal.