By BILL O’REAR
Tribune-Herald sports editor
In most sports, underdogs usually face stiff odds and only occasionally upset their heavily favored opponent.
But it can happen, and when it does, it’s a special feeling — just ask Konawaena bowling coach Clyde Takafuji.
On Sept. 28, the Wildcats entered the Big Island Interscholastic Federation bowling team championships facing stacked odds at Hilo Lanes.
“We were definitely the underdogs,” Takafuji said. “All three of the other teams — Waiakea, Hilo and Kamehameha — beat us during the regular season, and Waiakea was undefeated during the regular season.
“But in total pinfall, anything can happen and it did for us. We won the boys championship in a spirited battle.”
The four boys teams competed in total pinfall over six games for the championship, with Konawaena meeting Waiakea in the first trio of games and Hilo taking on Kamehameha. Then, based on the overall team scores, those same teams faced off three more games in trying to determine the BIIF’s team champion.
“After the first three games, we were down 132 pins to Hilo,” Takafuji said. “After four games, we were leading, then after five games, we were 10 pins behind Kamehameha. In the sixth game, we picked it up and ended up beating Kamehameha for the championship by 88 pins.”
But what Takafuji said added to the excitement was how the final three games against Waiakea played out.
“(Waiakea) Coach Tracy (Nakashima) told his boys to go big or go home,” Takafuji said. “From that point, everyone seemed to step up and there was a lot of sportsmanship, both teams really supported each other. It was like there was only one team bowling.
“It was really joyful for me. At that point, I didn’t care if we won or lost. It was great watching the boys just enjoying themselves and bowling. It was really fun to watch.”
Takafuji praised Nakashima and the Warriors.
“Hats off to Waiakea,” Takafuji said. “They have a great coach and a great team.”
Konawaena led in the final team scoring with 4,567 pins, followed by Kamehameha (4,479), Hilo (4,456) and Waiakea (4,450).
Tresen Arakaki led the Wildcats with 1,054 pins. Teammates Stefan Kimura (967), Kyler Kunimoto (867), Tyrus Suezaki (722) and Cody Fujimoto (686) rounded out the scoring.
With the victory, Konawaena also claimed five spots in the state championships, scheduled Oct. 31-Nov. 1 at Leeward Bowl on Oahu. The Wildcats will be joined by the BIIF’s top eight scorers during the regular season, unless the league’s individual champion comes from outside the top eight.
On the girls side, Waiakea, under longtime coach Calvin Nakashima, captured the BIIF team title. The Warriors led in scoring with 3,933 pins, followed by Hilo (3,875), Kealakehe (3,733) and Konawaena (3,524).
“We were down by 130 pins to Hilo in the last game and came back to win,” Nakashima said. “I didn’t tell the girls we were behind, I just told them to make their spares and hit their mark. But the girls were pumped up and we caught Hilo by the fifth frame.
“Going for the spares was the key to winning.”
Leading the way for the five-time defending champion Warriors in pinfall were Zoe Kimura (901), Kaelya Iwamoto (809), Rikelle Sakoda (798), Brooke Casiera (661), Stephanie Aki (443) and Chanel Higashi (321).
It was the second straight year that Waiakea trailed rival Hilo going into the sixth game only to claim the title.
The BIIF individual championships will be held Saturday at Hilo Lanes. The boys and girls will bowl six games, with the morning session starting at 9 a.m. and the afternoon session at about 1 p.m.
Kimura (161.46 average) led the Wildcats during the regular season, just behind league leader Kendrick Dacayanan (163.45) of Hilo.
“Stefan has a great shot at the individual title,” Takafuji said. “But like I said before, anything can happen with total pinfall.”
The top 10 boys bowlers based on regular-season average were: 1. Dacayanan; 2. Kimura; 3. Jhumar Martinez, Waiakea, 160.50; 4. Prayse Chung, Waiakea, 160.24; 5. Erik Arnold, Keaau, 157.83; 6. Kylan Sakata, Waiakea, 157.58; 7. Ryder Matsuyama, Kamehameha, 157.15; 8. Jordan Pajo, Hilo, 155.45; 9. Brandyn Lee, Kamehameha, 155.29; 10. James Fisher, Kealakehe, 152.61.
Waiakea graduate John Kaipo won the boys title last year.
The top 10 girls bowlers were: 1. Mika Parish, Kealakehe, 156.69; 2. Madison Staup, Konawaena, 153.25; 3. Jordan Pond, Konawaena, 150.64; 4. Kayla Okimoto, Hilo, 145.50; 5. Kaelya Iwamoto, Waiakea, 144.23; 6. Caitlyn Price, Hilo, 142.14; 7. Desiree Ichishita, Kealakehe, 141.54; 8. Brooke Casiera, Waiakea, 140.63; 9. Kanoe Brickwood, Hilo, 140.00; 10. Britnee Brooks, Hilo, 135.72.
“It’s wide-open this year,” Calvin Nakashima said. “All the girls are close and anyone could win it. It’s going to come down to who spares and who makes the clutch shots. It should be exciting.”
Casiera is the defending BIIF girls champion.
The champion Waiakea girls, with five berths, will be joined in the state tournament by the BIIF’s top nine scorers during the regular season, unless the individual champion comes from outside the top nine.