By J.R. De GROOTE
Stephens Media Hawaii
KAILUA-KONA — For Kamehameha, the Division I Big Island Interscholastic Federation title and undefeated league record is nice, but the desired finish line for the Warriors is waiting on Oahu.
Kamehameha churned out a dominant performance in the BIIF Division I championship game, defeating Waiakea in straight sets, 25-15, 25-16, 27-25, at Kealakehe’s gymnasium Saturday night.
“Waiakea is such a good team. Beating them is a huge victory for us,” Kamehameha head coach Guy Enriques said. “I believe they are state contenders, and I don’t think people around the state understand how good that team is.”
Last year, Kamehameha lost to No. 1 seed and eventual state champion Punahou at the state tournament.
“This win is huge for us and hopefully it will buy us a second seed,” Enriques said.
However, Kamehameha (13-0) wound up with the third seed when the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament pairings were announced Sunday — Moanalua was seeded second — and will host a regional final at 3 p.m. Saturday against either Kamehameha-Kapalama (8-2) or Kahuku (8-7). The Oahu Warriors and Red Raiders meet Friday in the first round on Oahu.
Kamehameha’s Stanford-bound senior Evan Enriques led the charge, registering a game-high 27 kills in the match. Emmet Enriques added 10 kills and Kekaulike Alameda had 17 digs.
Mamane Namahoe led Waiakea with 12 kills and 17 digs, and Kamahao Paio tacked on seven kills. At states, Waiakea draws Kalaheo (13-3) at 7 p.m. Friday at Punahou High on Oahu, and the winner faces the top-seeded Buffanblu (10-0) at 3 p.m. Saturday. Regional winners advance to the semifinals May 9-10 in Honolulu.
The BIIF final provided little drama until the final set, in which Kamehameha was forced to battle back for the first time all match. The final point featured a series of back and forth volleys — including a solid spike that deflected nearly to the roof of the Kealakehe gymnasium — but Kamehameha outlasted Waiakea, preventing a fourth set.
“Waiakea really dug in on that last set. If they had played like that the whole game, we would still be playing,” Enriques said. “Beating this team as swiftly as we did, we walk away with a ton of confidence. I would not like to be the team these guys play up (at the state tournament).”
While older brother Evan Enriques provided the usual boom from his outside hitter position, freshman twins Avery Enriques and Addison Enriques set the table well from their setter spots.
“Our two freshman setters did a hell of a job,” coach Enriques said. “They struggled a little in the third but were able to regain their composure at the very end. For freshman first-timers in this type of a match, they did an incredible job.”
Enriques says Kamehameha is battle-tested heading to the state tournament.
“The whole emphasis of the tough preseason schedule this season was to prepare for this,” he said. “We travelled three times to Oahu and once to the mainland. That is the only way to prepare for this kind of stage.”