By BILL O’REAR
Tribune-herald sports editor
Kealen Figueroa scored 25 points to lead second-seeded Kohala to a 56-32 win over third-seeded Pahoa in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II basketball semifinals on Friday at Hilo Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium.
Figueroa, a 5-foot-7 junior guard, scored 11 points in the first half to lead the Cowboys (9-3) to a 29-19 advantage heading into the intermission. Kohala then outscored the Daggers 9-5 in the third period and 18-8 in the fourth.
The Cowboys’ aggressive man-to-man defense and trapping full-court pressure bothered Pahoa throughout the contest.
Both Kohala coach Don Fernandez and Figueroa credited their team’s defense for beating the Daggers.
“Our defense was the key,” Fernandez said. “We played good defense, and we knew we had to. We keyed on (Pahoa’s) Tolby (Saito). He’s such a dangerous player, a great player.”
Figueroa and Saito, both juniors, were matched up against each other at various times during the game, providing fans with a showcase of two of the league’s top underclassmen. But the Kohala guard always had help on offense and defense, and that was a major difference in the final outcome.
“I wanted to control the game tonight,” Figueroa said. “I tried to attack and make things happen. When I did penetrate and drew the defense to me, I tried to find my open shooters.
“On defense, we tried to step up and contain Tolby. He’s a great shooter, and we always tried to have two guys on him.”
Kohala will play Hawaii Prep (12-0) at 6 p.m. today for the Division II title.
Kohala’s biggest lead was 56-30 with 1:24 left in the final period.
Shawn Ray Ramos followed Figueroa with 12 points and Mikala Jordan had eight.
Saito led the Daggers with 15 points, including nine in the first half. But the talented Pahoa guard didn’t get much offensive help and fouled out with 3:50 remaining while trying to contain Figueroa.
Joel Rosario, Jr. was the second highest Dagger scorer, with seven points.
The Daggers finished their season with a 4-8 record.
Pahoa 10 9 5 8 — 32
Kohala 10 19 9 18 — 56
According to BIIF basketball coordinator Kalei Namohala, the league all-stars this season will include:
— Division I first team and honorable mention, plus Player of the Year and Coach of the Year.
— Division II first and second teams, honorable mention, plus Player of the Year and Coach of the Year.
Namohala said under BIIF procedures, a sport must have at least seven or more teams to afford it a first team and a second team for all-stars. There are seven D-II teams in the league this season and only five D-I teams. Coaches nominate their players but cannot vote for their own players, except in the Player of the Year voting.
To earn honorable mention, a player must receive at least a vote in the balloting of the league coaches.