By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Kevin Medeiros provided scoring punch off the bench with 18 points, and Hookela Hanato-Smith played bigger than his size on defense to help Konawaena maintain its perfect mark.
The Wildcats fought, scratched and clawed past Waiakea 58-53 in a wild Big Island Interscholastic Federation boys basketball game Saturday night at the Warriors Gym.
Hanato-Smith added 10 points, but his bigger contribution was guarding Waiakea forward Lucas St. George, a mobile 6-foot-3 senior, who had to work hard for his 16 points, and had about a five-inch height advantage.
“Like all our games against good teams, we’re right there and find a way to squeak one out, despite not playing our best basketball,” Kona coach Donny Awa said. “It was nice to see Kevin hit shots. He’s one of our better shooters, but has been in a bit of a slump. When he’s on, it opens things up for everybody else.
“We wanted to put Hookela on Lucas. He’s been beating his big man defenders with speed. We thought Hookela would have more speed and keep him off the glass.”
Kahinu Alapai and Calvin Mattos each had eight points for the Warriors (3-2), who led 23-20 at halftime and could have increased that lead if not for several blown layups and other point-blank shots, cold shooting that carried over into the second half as well.
Waiakea shot just 37 percent (16 of 43) from the field; Kona had much better marksmanship at 41 percent (19 of 46), including 64 percent in the second half — thanks to all the critical shots Medeiros knocked down.
Senior ball-handlers Brandon Awa and Chase Takaki each scored nine points for the Wildcats (5-0), who had much better ball security with just eight turnovers; the Warriors had 13 giveaways, including four in the fourth period when possessions were so precious.
Medeiros was an instant microwave scoring machine in the third quarter. Everything he shot went in; to claim he was lava hot would be an understatement. He scored on a putback off a Jonah Bredeson free-throw miss, drained a 3-pointer and converted two other big buckets.
“We executed in the second half. We wanted to push the tempo,” Medeiros said. “I just let it flow. I couldn’t hold back. It was teamwork and we stuck together.”
The second half featured a more uptempo pace than the half-court defensive slugfest in the first 16 minutes. Right before the third period’s buzzer, Awa zipped through Waiakea’s defense for a layup with 4.1 seconds left.
It was a theme throughout the night between the two Division I title contenders. The Wildcats had a much better transition game, scoring seven layups off misses or made shots; the Warriors had four layups, including two by Mattos, an athletic freshman.
It also helped that Kona had seven 3-pointers, including three by Medeiros. Waiakea had just three treys by Cody Kojima, Bryson Ita and Cameron Carvalho-Chinen.
Early in the fourth quarter, St. George scored on a pair of putbacks to chip Kona’s lead to 45-42. Then Maikai Gahan scored to get Waiakea closer, trailing just 45-44 with 4:20 remaining in the game.
That’s when Medeiros swished his third and final trey, a proverbial punch to the gut that gave the Wildcats a bit of breathing room with a 48-44 advantage with 3:49 to go.
From there, Kona spread the court and attacked the rim when the Warriors overcommitted and made a misstep on defense. Takaki dribbled and dished to Medeiros, who sank a short banker to pound down another nail for a 50-44 lead with 2:00 showing on the clock.
Down the stretch, the closest the Warriors got was 57-53, but only 24.7 seconds remained. Kona made just 11 of 21 free throws; Waiakea made 16 of 22. But the Wildcats have a knack for closing out big games.
The defending BIIF champion Wildcats eventually walked off with a vital win. More important, they are in the driver’s seat for the BIIF regular season title, which includes the first berth to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state tournament.
“We haven’t shot the ball really well, and the second half was more uptempo and I thought that favored us a bit,” Awa said. “Hilo has (three) losses and this is a really big win for us. We talked about this prior to the game. I thought Waiakea was our main competition because they match up well against us. We control our own destiny from here.”
In the JV, Waiakea won 57-43.
Konawaena 13 7 20 18 — 58
Waiakea 13 10 15 15 — 53
Kohala 89, Hilo 79: The Cowboys got contributions from all over for a rousing comeback victory in a shootout in Kapaau.
Kealan Figueroa powered Kohala (4-1) with 27 points, Shawn Ray Ramos scored 23 and Mikala Jordan added 20 for the Cowboys, who erased a 10-point halftime deficit by tying the game after three quarters. Kohala then scored 27 points to pull away in the fourth.
The Vikings (2-3) lost despite getting a 35-point performance from Jalen Carvalho. Austin Dante scored 25 for Hilo and Fa’a Fuiava tallied 14.
Justin Aybayani gave Kohala a fourth double-digit scorer with 13.
Hilo won the JV game 60-31.
Hilo 23 24 15 17—79
Kohala 14 23 25 27—89
Honokaa 66, St. Joseph 61: Shyrome Batin, Cjay Carvalho and Wesley Salboro delivered fourth-quarter heroics at Honokaa Armory as the Dragons avoided an upset.
Batin scored seven of his game-high 18 points in the fourth quarter, Carvalho tallied all of his eight in the fourth and Salboro scored all but two of his nine points in the quarter for Honokaa (2-3), which overcame a 10-point deficit after three quarters. Nathan Gascon added 10 points in the game.
Cole Desilva scored 18 for the Cardinals (0-4) and Michael Silva had 13.
St. Joseph 15 18 12 16—61
Honokaa 10 10 15 31—66
Hawaii Prep 70, Ka’u 38: Evaldas Vegertas’ 14 points in Pahala led a balanced effort as Ka Makani remained unbeaten.
Kenji Stinson and Nicky Palleschi each contributed 11 points for HPA (5-0).
Larry-Dan Al-Navarro led the Trojans (0-5) with 16 points.
In JV, Ka’u won 57-43.
Kamehameha 79, Kealakehe 67: Pukana Vincent sparked the host Warriors to victory by pouring in 18 points and Micah Carter fueled a 3-point barrage and added 16 points.
Carter finished with four of his team’s nine 3-pointers. Kaeo Bacatan and Bayley Manliguis each scored 10 points and Dayson Alip had nine for Kamehameha (3-2).
The Waveriders (1-3) had three players reach double figures, getting 13 apiece from Kalani Lewi and Malu Akiona as well as Shaden Lewi’s 11.
Kamehameha JV won 56-29.
Kealakehe 11 18 11 27—67
Kamehameha 17 20 27 15—79
Keaau 47, Pahoa 44, OT: Edgar Ventura led all scorers with 26 points and the Cougars won in overtime in Pahoa.
Charlie Belmes added 10 for Keaau (3-2).
Tolby Saito paced the Daggers (1-4) with 15.
In JV, Keaau won 46-40.
Keaau 9 10 10 7 11 —47
Pahoa 7 12 11 6 8—44