By BILL O’REAR
Tribune-Herald sports editor
Junior Dillon Rellez scored 13 points in a balanced Waiakea attack, including drilling 9 of 10 clutch free throws in the fourth quarter, to lead the hustling Warriors to a 62-49 win over rival Hilo on Monday night.
About 400 fans watched the high-intensity Big Island Interscholastic Federation boys Division I basketball game at Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium.
Rellez, a 5-foot-10 guard/forward, moved to the backcourt to help handle the ball against the Vikings (3-1) and the Warriors (3-1) did a much better job in controlling the game’s tempo as well as limiting turnovers. But just as important was Waiakea’s ability to share the ball, hit free throws down the stretch and gang rebound to keep the hosts off the offensive glass.
Senior Owen Sandstrom (9 rebounds), junior Lucas St. George (7 rebounds, 3 steals) and junior Bryson Ita (solid floor game) followed the versatile Rellez with 12, 12 and 10 points, respectively, to overcome a 21-point performance, including five 3-pointers, from Hilo junior Jodd Carter.
The Warriors, under co-coaches Henry Miranda and Eric Yoshimura, started fast and led 18-10 at the end of the first period and carried a 30-22 lead into the intermission. The Vikings outscored Waiakea 13-12 in the third quarter to close to within 42-35, setting the stage for a frantic final eight minutes.
Carter, a 5-9 shooter with deep range, opened the fourth period with a 3-pointer to slash the Warrior cushion to 42-38 and Hilo senior Kamu Patnaude followed with a straight-on trey from the top of the key to make it 42-41.
But Waiakea kept its composure and sophomore Daylen Ita was fouled at the 6:52 mark and calmy hit two free throws to stretch the Warriors’ margin to 46-41. Patnaude answered with two free throws at 6:37 before the 6-3 St. George hit a 10-foot jumper and Rillez knocked down four straight free throws over a 35-second span to extend the visitors’ lead to 52-43 with 4:30 left.
Senior Jacob Genegabus, who followed Carter with nine points on the night, drove for a tough layup on the Vikings’ next possession to make it 52-47. But Rellez hit one of two free throws and junior Maikai Gahan drained two charity shots to give Waiakea a 55-47 advantage at the 3:00 mark.
The game then got away from Hilo after what the Vikings believed was a missed call on an out-of-bounds play. One of the Vikings argued the call with a veteran referee, who gave the Viking two technical fouls and ejected him from the contest.
The hot-shooting Rellez then went to the line and made four straight free throws to stretch the Warriors’ lead to 59-47 and cap an impressive string of them making 13 of 16 free throws in a five-minute span.
The heated emotional exchange seemed to take something out of the Vikings and Ita (1 free throw) and St. George (2 free throws) scored as Waiakea’s advantage ballooned to 62-47 with 2:10 remaining. Senior Kian Kurokawa sank a layup on Hilo’s next possession at 2:05 and the Warriors ran clock the rest of the way to seal the big win over their rivals.
“We played disciplined ball tonight,” Eric Yoshimura said. “It’s a great team win, but we’re still early in the season and have to keep improving.”
Co-coach Miranda agreed: “We made some adjustments going into tonight’s game. We’ve been building our team chemistry and the boys are starting to understand that if we play smart team basketball, we can play with the top teams in the BIIF.
“We learn from every game. The boys kept their composure and they’re starting to have more confidence in our halfcourt offense. This win gives the team a lot of confidence and we know our team goal is to be in the BIIF championship game.”
Both Yoshimura and Miranda felt their team’s strong rebounding played a key role in the victory.
“Hilo is a physical team,” Miranda said, “but our guys played hard tonight and everybody did a good job rebounding.”
Rellez had a terrific all-around game: 13 points, seven rebounds three assists to go along with his rock-solid play handling the ball against the Vikings’ tenacious fullcourt press. He also remembered losing to Hilo in the Waiakea/Keaau preseason tournament when the Warriors led going into the fourth period only to fold under the Vikings’ pressure defense and fall by double-digits.
“It feels great to get this win,” an energy-zapped Rellez said after Monday’s win. “We had been struggling as a team and I hadn’t been shooting very well. The coaches told me to stop forcing shots and stick to the game plan. They (Vikings) were playing aggressive and I just tried to get past the defender and go to the line.”
In the final period, Rellez looked like a free-throw clinician, hitting his nine out of 10 charity shots.
“I felt good in the fourth quarter,” he said. “I didn’t feel pressured out. I shot with a lot of confidence.”
But the seasoned junior also didn’t want to make too much more out of the win besides it being a league victory.
“We don’t want to get cocky, we want to stay humble and play every game one at a time,” Rellez said. “The key to beating Hilo was to get by their press. But we did it as a team tonight and that is how we need to play the rest of the season.”
Hilo played without high-scoring junior Jalen Carvalho, who is expected to return from a foot injury before the regular season wraps up and the BIIF playoffs begin. The Vikings miss his 3-point shooting and ability to get to the basket.
Vikings coach Jason Mandaquit got strong efforts from Genegabus (9 points, 8 rebounds) and junior forward Drew Kell (9 rebounds, 3 points, 2 steals, 1 blocked shot). But Carter’s productive offensive night could not overcome Waiakea’s balance with four players in double figures.
The Warriors finished the evening by making 22 of 29 free throws; the Vikings were 8 for 15 from the line.
In the junior-varsity game, Hilo 52, Waiakea 34. Jordan Caoagdan had 13 points and El Narido 10 to lead the Vikings. Kelly Goya had 14 points and Marc Ferreira 10 to top the Warriors.
Waiakea 18 12 12 20 — 62
Hilo 10 12 13 14 — 49
• Konawaena 56, Kohala 20: Courtney Kaupu scored 13 points, and Konawaena rolled past Kohala 56-20 in Big Island Interscholastic Federation girls basketball on Monday night.
Melissa Simon added 11 points as the Division I Wildcats improved to 3-0 with the home victory.
Tezrah Antonio and Briana Harrison each scored six points to lead Division II Kohala (1-3).
Kohala 4 6 4 6 — 20
Konawaena 14 11 18 13 — 56
• Keaau 58, Ka’u 56: Taylor Pocock scored 29 points as the Lady Cougars won in overtime in Pahala.
Maedina Ongais-Kilaulani chipped in with 19 points to help Keaau (2-3) stop a three-game losing streak.
Shyann Flores-Carvalho scored 15 points for the Trojans (1-4), who steadily climbed back to force overtime after trailing by 10 after the first quarter. Leah Cariaga added 13 points and Toni Beck added 10.
In JV, Kerrilynn Domondon scored 15 points in Ka’u’s 48-33 victory.
Keaau 22 10 7 9 10— 58
Ka’u 12 14 11 11 8 — 56