By CLINT ZAVODNY
Stephens Media Hawaii
KAILUA-KONA — Po’okela Hanato-Smith made three clutch free throws and a pair of key steals in the final minute as Konawaena edged Kealakehe 49-47 in a thrilling Big Island Interscholastic Federation boys basketball game Friday night at Kealakehe Gymnasium.
Jonah Bredeson finished the night with 16 points to lead all scorers and Brandon Awa added 13 points and seven steals to help the defending Division I champion Wildcats improve to 3-0.
“It was a close game, but we’ve been here before,” Awa said. “That’s what our team was telling each other — we’ve been here before, we know how to work these close games. So we just stayed aggressive, took some chances on defense, and it paid off.”
Keanu Tilfas led the Waveriders (1-1) with 11 points, while Malu Akiona and Arthur Freddy added eight points each.
Freddy nailed a long 3-pointer from the corner to give Kealakehe a 47-46 lead with 1:15 left in regulation.
The Wildcats almost gave the ball right back after a missed shot, but Hanato-Smith stole the ball to retain possession and was immediately fouled. The senior guard then swished both free throws to give Konawaena a one-point edge with under a minute left.
Kealakehe took the ball down court, and Awa alertly swept in for a steal, but knocked the ball out of bounds. He did not let that deter him, however, as he stole the ensuing in-bounds pass a few seconds later. After a series of passes, Awa drove into traffic under the net, but the ball bounced harshly off the rim and a Waverider emerged with the rebound. However, Hanato-Smith stole the ball with 15 seconds left and was instantly fouled. He missed the first free throw but netted the second to put the Wildcats up by two.
Hanato-Smith made good on his missed free throw with another steal – this time on the other side of the court – to seal the victory.
Konawaena led by a point after the first quarter, but seemed to cool off in the second. Kealakehe, meanwhile, took charge, and looked to be well in control heading to the locker room at halftime with a 27-22 lead.
However, Konawaena came out shooting to open second half, and it was Kealakehe that got suddenly cold. The Waveriders made just one shot through the first six minutes of the third, allowing the Wildcats to take the lead on a pull-up jumper by Bredeson midway through quarter. But Kealakehe came back with late surge to tie at the game at 34 heading into final quarter.
And the fast-paced fourth quarter proved to be the most exciting one, with each team trading leads back and forth. But in the end, it was Konawaena who quite literally stole the victory.
“I actually thought we weren’t playing all that bad (in the first half), Kealakehe was just playing really good,” Konawaena coach Donald Awa said. “So I just told our guys to do the little things. … a box out here and there, grab the next rebound, make those hustle plays … because it looked like it would come down to one or two plays, and it did.”
Konawaena 14 8 12 15 — 49
Kealakehe 13 14 7 13 — 47