By BILL O’REAR
Tribune-Herald sports editor
KEAAU —When Waiakea and Hilo play in volleyball, the fierce rivalry usually brings out the competitive best in both teams.
And on Friday night in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division I boys semifinals, neither team disappointed in all-out hustle and playing another marathon match that turned into a sprint in the fifth game before the Warriors fought off the stubborn Vikings 25-19, 25-21, 17-25, 23-25, 15-12.
In the other D-I semifinal at Kamehameha-Hawaii’s Koaia Gym, the host Warriors (14-0) defeated fourth-seeded Kealakehe 25-11, 25-7, 25-20.
In today’s D-I final, top-seeded Kamehameha will battle seccond-seeded Waiakea (13-1) at 7 p.m. at Koaia Gym. The champion earns the BIIF’s No. 1 seed in the upcoming state D-I tournament on Oahu. The BIIF runner-up will also represent the league in the 12-team states.
“It was a good match,” longtime Waiakea coach Ecko Osorio said. “We were a little more steady and made a few more plays to pull out the win. But we got a little lazy after going up 2-0 and then found ourselves in a real dogfight where either team could have won.”
The talented Warriors rode the outstanding performance of junior outside hitter Mamane Namahoe, who finished with a match-high 22 kills, hitting lasers from about every angle and position on the court. He peppered his thunderous swings with an occasional dink to keep the third-seeded Vikings on their toes at the net.
“Mamane carried us most of the way,” Osorio said. “I thought he got a little tired late in the match, but our conditioning paid off and we had some other guys step up.”
Junior Dillon Rellez, a southpaw who hits from the right side, followed the 6-foot-1 Mamone with 10 kills, including three or four key points that helped keep momentum on Waiakea’s side. Teammates Daniel Thomson, a senior setter, and Brett Harrington, a senior middle blocker, each added eight kills in a solid Warrior attack.
“Dillon had some big kills for us,” Osorio said. “When he gets a good pass, he can put it down. But overall, I thought we passed the ball pretty well and in the end, we played to win, not to lose.
“Still, you’ve got to give Hilo credit. They did a nice job of slowing down Mamone and they gave us a tough match.”
Osorio needed the rock-solid team effort to overcome Hilo’s athletic firepower with seniors Makoa Tandal and Kennison Rowe leading the way with 20 and 17 kills, respectively. Tandal, a 5-8 outside hitter who often spikes a foot or more above the net, and Rowe, a highly skilled 6-1 outside hitter, rallied the Vikings (10-4) in the final three games to push the rival Warriors to the limit.
Hilo head coach Jay Rowe also got inspired play from senior middle blocker Hoku Mattos (9 kills) and junior outside hitter AJ Matsumoto (7 kills) to support the hard-hitting duo of Tandal and Rowe as the proud Vikings seriously challenged Waiakea for a coveted state-tournament berth.
The Warriors prevailed in the opening game 25-19 behind their steady play with few miscues. They then took a 2-0 advantage by winning Game 2 25-21. Up until that point, Waiakea was just more consistent and had limited service errors.
However, the Vikings charged back in Game 3 as Tandal, Rowe & Co. roared to an impressive 25-13 victory. They followed that effort with another never-say-die performance in Game 4, scoring the final three points on a Rowe kill, a Tandal kill and a Rowe ace to truimph 25-23. The game was tied 14 times, the last at 23-23 before the Vikings, with setter Maika Nahooikaika providing pinpoint passing, earned the difficult victory.
In Game 5, Osorio kept reminding his Warriors to “play to win.” And they responded early, jumping and spiking their way to a 5-1 lead. But Hilo got three straight kills from the strong-armed Rowe to pull within 5-4 and then tied it at 7-7 on Trevor Castro’s ace.
The teams traded points again and it was tied a final time at 12-12 when the pumped-up Tandal drilled an ace. However, the ever-present Namahoe responded with a clutch kill to lift Waiakea on top 13-12 and southpaw buddy Rellez followed with a kill to make it 14-12.
The Vikings then mishandled the ball on the next Warrior serve, allowing Waiakea to celebrate the hard-fought win.
In the earlier semifinal, Kamehameha overpowered Kealakehe behind a strong hitting attack and sure-handed defense.
The experienced Warriors easily handled the young Waveriders in the first two games, winning 25-11 and 25-7, before Kamehameha head coach Guy Enriques played his underclassmen in Game 3 and prevailed in an evenly played game 25-20. No game statistics were available from the match at the Tribune-Herald’s deadline Friday night.
Kealakehe, under head coach August Dias, finished their season with a 6-8 record.
At Koaia Gym, Kamehameha-Hawaii
Division I semifinals
Kamehameha 25 25 25
Kealakehe 11 7 20
Hilo 19 21 25 25 12
Waiakea 25 25 17 23 15