By KYLE GALDEIRA
Stephens Media Hawaii
Kohala’s quest for the school’s first state championship will have to wait another season.
The Cowboys relied on their favorite fast-and-furious style to keep things close, but Kalani’s playmakers ruled the day to the tune of a 70-59 victory in the semifinal round of the HHSAA Division II state boys basketball championship tournament Friday evening at Kalani High School. The Falcons advance to today’s championship game slated for 5 p.m. at the Neal Blaisdell Arena.
After trailing by as many as 15 points late in the first half, Kohala stormed out of the locker room on the heels of a 12-5 run to trim Kalani’s lead to 38-36 near the four-minute mark of the third period. The streak got Cowboys skipper Don Fernandez pumped up as the coach clapped his hands wildly, imploring the black-and yellow clad squad to sustain its intensity.
Kohala (11-4) appeared to run out of gas, though, as the Falcons turned to their do-it-all forward in Brandon Roberts, who scored 13 of his team-leading 19 points in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys again chipped away at Kalani’s lead until the margin dwindled down to 53-51 midway through the final frame, but the Falcons countered with a 12-3 run to put the contest out of reach.
“The guys were a little tired, and made some turnovers that really cost us,” said Fernandez. “That’s how we like to play. It’s fun to watch, huh? It’s fun to play, fun to watch and murderous on the coaches — that’s what the fans want to see.”
Junior forward Mikala Jordan provided the bulk of Kohala’s offense and ended up with a game-high 25 points and three 3-pointers, while teammates Hana Caravalho and Kealen Figueroa chipped in 12 points apiece.
Both squads ran the floor with a frenetic pace early, and Kalani appeared to fluster Kohala with a stingy pressure defense. The Falcons fell behind initially, but exploded for a 12-0 run midway through the first quarter en route to building a 19-9 advantage. Kalani rode the hot hand of Alexander Tungpalan (11 points and three treys) as the reserve guard notched eight first-quarter points, including two 3-point jumpers.
Roberts took the reigns on offense for the Falcons in the second frame as the spry forward slashed through the lane for six consecutive points to help Kalani build a 29-15 advantage midway through the period. Kohala, which was cheered on by a small yet raucous bunch of supporters, kept pace by drawing contact on nearly every offensive possession.
After a slew of Falcon fouls put the Cowboys in the bonus, the visitors scored their first 11 points of the quarter on free throws and did not convert a field goal until Figueroa made a hard-earned layup with 35 seconds to play in the opening half. Kohala ended the stanza on a 6-0 run, and pulled to within nine points of the lead, 33-24, at intermission. The Cowboys kept the margin relatively close considering they made just six of 27 first-half field goals, committed eight turnovers and were outrebounded 27-16 in the opening half.
Kalani (8-7) pulled a 54-41 upset of top-seeded Saint Francis on Thursday, and guaranteed that the tourney’s top draw would not claim the title for the first time in four years.
The Cowboys rode into the state field as the fourth seed after downing previously undefeated Hawaii Prep last Saturday to claim their first Big Island Interscholastic Federation title since 2009.
“We’re all about working hard and never giving up,” Fernandez said. “We just try to be a family. Basketball is a tough spor t— you can have the right players, but you need luck on your side sometimes, too. We had a tough battle.”
Division I - Friday
Lucas St. George scored 20 points to lead Waiakea to a 54-32 win over Kalaheo in the seventh-place game at the HHSAA Division I basketball tournament Friday.
In a later game at Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu, Big Island Interscholastic Federation champion Konawaena defeated Lahainaluna 69-49 and will play in today’s fifth-place game.
Waiakea, the BIIF runner-up, ran past Kalaheo as Warrior coach Paul Lee went to his bench early and often throughout the season-ending contest. Jeffrey Tomas followed St. George with seven points while Noa Ferreira and Cody Kojima each added six points. The Warriors finished with a 2-1 record in the state tournament — they fell to Mililani 70-62 in the first round — 12-4 overall.
Kekai Smith led Kalaheo (12-6) with seven points.
Chase Takaki poured in 15 points, including two 3-pointers, to lead Konawaena (12-3) over Maui Interscholastic League runner-up Lahainaluna (9-8). Kevin Medeiros and Cameron Howes each added 11 points for the Wildcats while point guard Brandon Awa had nine points.