By J.R. De GROOTE
Stephens Media Hawaii
KAILUA-KONA — After a string of tough losses, Kealakehe rode the momentum from a strong first quarter and 15 points from Kalani Lewi to a 59-47 win against Keaau in a Big Island Interscholastic Federation matchup at Kealakehe Gymnasium Friday night.
“We don’t have basketball players, we have guys who play basketball,” said Kealakehe assistant coach Sonny Guerra, who was filling in for head coach Sam Kekuaokalani. “We have athletes — some of these guys are three-sport athletes. We make the best situation out of what we are given,”
Keaau (3-4) was looking to rebound after a 49-39 loss to Waiakea on Tuesday ended a three-game winning streak. However, Kealakehe (2-4) was in desperate need of a win. After a fourth consecutive loss against Hawaii Preparatory Academy on Tuesday, the Waveriders became the cellar-dwellers in Division I.
Kealakehe came out with the opposite game plan than the slow, patient strategy the team had implemented earlier in the week against Ka Makani. The Waveriders had the pedal to the metal from the tip with a run and gun offense.
“With HPA, we knew it was going to be a heavyweight fight, so we were looking to jab with them, possession for possession,” Guerra said. “We don’t look past any opponent. We pride ourselves on preparing for the team we have in front of us.
“We knew Keaau was not going to press and if we could get quick transitions we could catch them.”
The Waveriders started the game on a 13-2 run, highlighted by Arthur Freddy hitting on all three of his 3-point attempts. For a comparison, Kealakehe had 16 points in the entire first half against HPA.
“We like instant offense and we like to push the ball when we can. Our boys are starting to learn we cannot always push the ball though,” Guerra said. “We have had as many as 35 turnovers in a game. Tonight, we had around 15, so it is nice to see that more than cut in half.”
The visiting Cougars seemed to settle in a bit after the tidal wave of Kealakehe offense in the opening minutes. Led by senior forward Edgar Ventura, the Cougars went on a run of their own, and entered the break down 22-17.
Ventura was tricked by the home crowd — who counted down the final seconds remaining incorrectly — into launching a 3-pointer early; however, as the Waverider fans chuckled, Ventura’s shot swished through the net to close to gap to five.
Ventura finished the game with 20 points, 11 of those coming in the first half.
Kealakehe looked to have a stranglehold on the game entering the fourth quarter, with a 10-point cushion, but the Cougars continued to fight. After a 3-pointer by Ventura in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, Kealakehe’s cushion had shrunk to just three points.
Feeling the change of momentum, the Waveriders shifted gears into a frantic full-court press. Kealakehe defender’s efforts paid off, causing turnovers and growing the lead once again.
The Cougars were not done though, getting hot again from behind the arc with consecutive 3s and drawing within four points with just over three minutes remaining.
An animated Guerra was seen on the sideline urging his players to continue with the high-octane pace.
“We have a great bunch of guys, and hopefully my energy wears off on them,” Guerra said.
Tilfas and Lewi picked up the slack for the ‘Riders, recording a combined 10 fourth-quarter points to secure the win.
The Waveriders will look to string together consecutive wins for the first time this season Monday at home against Kohala. Keaau faces another road rest against Honokaa.
Keaau 9 8 14 16 —47
Kealakehe 16 6 19 19—59
Konawaena 45, Kamehameha 32: Jonah Bredeson scored 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds in Kealakekua to lead the Wildcats, who dominated the boards to pull away in the fourth quarter and remained unbeaten.
Konawaena (7-0) doubled up the Warriors (4-3) in rebounding (42-21), including 26-9 in the second half as it broke open a tight game. The Wildcats led 25-23 entering the fourth quarter. Brandon Awa contributed 10 points, and Kevin Medeiros and Cameron Howes each collected seven rebounds.
Bayley-Allen Manliguis finished with eight points for Kamehameha and Pukana Vincent had seven.
Konawaena won the JV game 43-36.
Kamehameha 10 8 5 9— 32
Konawaena 13 6 6 20—45
Hawaii Prep 78, Honokaa 58: David Ovbagbedia, a 6-foot-4 forward, scored 22 points and visiting Ka Makani finished strong to improve to 7-0.
Guards Justas Gecas and Kalan Camero finished with 16 points apiece for HPA, which made good use of the tallest lineup in the BIIF.
“We got to within four and were playing well in the fourth quarter,” Dragons coach Jayme Carvalho said. “Their size took control in the end.”
Shyrome Batin led Honokaa (2-5) with 16 points, Kysen Datuin scored 15 and CJay Carvalho added nine.
In JV, Honokaa won 49-37.
Hawaii Prep 20 18 17 23—78
Honokaa 12 15 23 8—58
Hilo 70, Ka’u 46: In Pahala, Jalen Carvalho posted a game-high 28 points and Austin Dante scored 15 as the Vikings (4-3) won their second straight game.
Larry-Dan Al-Navarro led the Trojans (0-7) with 14 points and Chance Emmsley-Ah Yee added 12.
The Trojans won the JV game 59-53.
Ka’u 9 14 10 13 —46
Hilo 14 25 18 13—70
state tourney berth
Honokaa 54, Kohala 10: Eliyah Fernandez scored 11 points and Hunter Liftee added 10 as the Dragons dominated defensively to secure a trip to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II tournament.
After putting the finishing touches on an outright BIIF regular-season championship, top-seeded Honokaa (9-2) will face Hawaii Prep (5-5) at 3 p.m. next Friday in the tournament semifinals at Keaau High School.
Mohala Kaholoa’a-Kumukoa finished with three points for the Cowgirls (6-5), who managed just a single point in both the first and fourth quarters. Kohala takes a four-game losing streak into its semifinal against Kamehameha (7-3) at 4:30 p.m. next Friday at Keaau.
The state tournament runs Feb. 5-8 in Honolulu.
Honokaa 18 18 9 9 —54
Kohala 1 3 5 1—10