By BILL O’REAR
Tribune-Herald sports editor
The “Manliguis” name has been a mainstay in Big Island basketball for well over five decades. But on Friday night, it wasn’t the legendary Manliguis brothers, Al and the late Larry, coaching Hilo High to victory at Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium.
Instead, it was Kamehameha’s La’akea Manliguis — their gifted grandnephew — stepping up in prime time, scoring a game-high 20 points to lead the private-school Warriors to a 65-59 win over the young Vikings in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Boys Division I basketball tournament semifinals.
The hard-fought win clinched a state berth for the defending BIIF champion Warriors (10-4) and lifted them into tonight’s D-I title game against West No. 1 seed Konawaena (11-0). The Wildcats (11-0) edged East No. 2 Waiakea 59-58 and also clinched a state berth.
The BIIF D-I final will be played at 7:30 p.m., following the league’s D-II championship between West top seed Hawaii Prep (7-4) and East top seed Pahoa (8-5) at 6 p.m.
Defending D-II champion Hawaii Prep beat Honokaa 50-45 and Pahoa topped Kohala 67-65.
Kamehameha started quickly and led Hilo 12-6 at the end of the first period and then Manliguis, a 5-foot-11 junior guard, torched the Vikings for four 3-pointers in the second quarter as Kamehameha carried a 29-21 advantage into the half.
Manliguis’ play seemed to contagious for the hustling Warriors and he got plenty of help on this memorable evening before about 1,800 fans at the Civic.
“The boys were having fun and playing team basketball,” Warriors head coach Dominic Pacheco said. “We asked them to believe in the system and share the ball. Tonight, it really showed in the first half.”
Manliguis, in particular, followed the gameplan.
“Coach told us if we were open to shoot,” a smiling Manliguis said after the semifinal as the Warriors celebrated the clutch victory that punched their ticket to the state D-I tournament, scheduled Feb. 20-23 in Honolulu.
“My shot was feeling good and I just kept shooting.”
But Pacheco’s advice to share the ball paid more dividends in the second half as the Vikings battled back. Hilo (11-3) outscored Kamehameha 23-17 in the third period and trailed 46-44 heading into the final quarter.
The Jason Mandaquit-coached Vikings then took a 49-48 lead on Jacob Genegabuas’ six-foot floater with 5:10 remaining and led 51-48 on Kian Kurokawa’s putback at the 4:44 mark.
However, the Warriors answered with Micah Carter’s 3-pointer tying the contest at 51-51 on their next possession and then taking a 53-51 lead on Rylan Kiko’s layup at 3:15.
Junior Drew Kell, who had a game-high 14 rebounds, powered inside for a basket to tie the game a final time with 2:57 left.
Then Kell hustled for a rebound on the Warriors’ next possession and was whistled for an inadvertent elbow, giving Kamehameha two shots and the ball. Manliguis sank one of the two free throws and then senior Ilikai Calip hit a 3-pointer off the inbounds to give the Warriors a 57-53 advantage at the 2:22 mark.
The Vikings failed to score on their possession and Manliguis scored on a drive and was fouled. He drilled the free throw to extend the Kamehameha lead to 60-53 at 1:22.
Senior Kamu Patnaude followed with a layup to pull Hilo within 60-55 at 1:16. But Calip was fouled and he hit two free throws to make it 62-57.
Patnaude answered again with a short jumper at :42 as the Vikings got to within 62-57 and Kamehameha turned over the ball at :37. Jalen Carvalho, a 6-2 junior, was fouled on a drive and scored at :31. He missed the accompanying free throw and the score remained 62-59.
Senior Shaun Kagawa, the Warriors’ do-everything guard, was fouled at :30 and drained one of two free throws to make it 63-59.
Then Manliguis — the grandson of Calvin Manliguis, the younger brother of Al and Larry who starred at Hilo High in the 1960s and later coached in the BIIF — added two free throws at :10 to stretch the Kamehameha margin to 65-59.
“I’m very happy with this win,” the young Manliguis said. “The first game we played them, I missed free throws that could have won the game. Tonight, we had a lot of team assists and shared the ball. It’s a really big win for us.”
Manliguis led Kamehameha with his 20 points, including the momentum-charging four treys in the opening half. Calip, a slender forward, played one of his best all-around games of the season and finished with 17 points and eight rebounds.
Kagawa had nine points, six rebounds, four steals and four assists. Carter added eight points while junior Faaolaina Teofilo had seven points, six rebounds and two blocked shots.
“Shaun did a great job leading us,” Pacheco said. “You could see him trusting his teammates tonight and they made shots. That’s what we’ve been telling them all year, to believe in the system and his teammates.
“Give all the credit to the kids. They just played basketball and had fun tonight. The pressure was on Hilo, not us. Nobody thought we’d be playing on Friday night with such a young team. But the kids worked hard and deserve to be playing for the title again.”
Kell and Carvalho each scored 15 points to lead the Vikings. The versatile Carvalho also had nine rebounds and two steals.
Patnaude contributed nine points and five rebounds, and had the difficult task of trying to contain the dangerous Kagawa all evening. Junior point guard Austin Dante added eight points, all in the second half, and five assists.
Junior Viking sharpshooter Jodd Carter didn’t play Friday night while still recovering from a leg injury.
Last year, BIIF champion Kamehameha and runner-up Hilo represented the league in the state D-I tournament on Oahu.
Waiakea finished its season with a 10-4 record.
Note: KTA Super Stores is the title sponsor for the BIIF D-I and II boys basketball tournaments.
At Hilo Civic
Kamehameha 12 17 17 19 — 65
Hilo 6 15 23 15 — 59