By BILL O’REAR
Tribune-Herald sports editor
In one of the most exciting games in the history of the Hilo High School Holiday Prep Classic, Trinity Christian held off Waiakea 65-62 on Friday night.
About 450 fans watched the boys basketball tournament semifinal game at Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium — one that wasn’t decided until the final seconds when a 3-pointer at the buzzer from Waiakea’s Calvin Mattos bounced off the rim.
The tall Tigers, a Class 4-A private school from Cedar Hill, Texas, got a dominating performance from 6-foot-9, 265-pound Albert Owens, who poured in 40 points. But somehow, in an almost Hoosiers-like cloud of uncertainty throughout the fast-paced contest, the undersized Warriors from the Big Island Interscholastic Federation hung close and appeared on the verge of a stunning upset in the final quarter.
The Tigers were led by the overwhelming Owens, who will play at NCAA Division I Oral Roberts University next year and scored 21 points in the opening half — including a monster two-handed dunk that shook the backboard and brought oohs and ahs from the fans as well as two 3-pointers, showcasing his all-around skills to play effectively almost anywhere on the court.
Tigers coach Tim Ferguson was thrilled with the hard-fought victory and looked like he’d just went through a 15-round boxing match.
“Those guys are tough, all of them,” Ferguson said, pointing to the Warriors as they walked off the court. “I really love that No. 11 (Lucas St. George) and No. 21 (Mattos), they just never quit.
“Their team outplayed us for a lot of the game. They wanted it more than us. This was our 15th game this year, and it’s the first time we’ve been behind in the final minute. It’s a good experience for our guys. But those guys over there really played hard and almost pulled it out.”
Owens was the dominant player on the floor, while Breland and Cole each added eight points as the Tigers moved on to face Hilo in Saturday night’s championship game.
St. George led the Warriors with 23 points, including 15 in the heart-thumping second half. St. George, the tallest Warrior at 6-3 also had to guard the beefy Owens for a lot of the game while the 6-foot Alapai tried to keep the 6-9 Breland in check. Mattos followed St. George with 15 points and Alapai had nine.
Waiakea coach Paul Lee praised his team’s all-out performance, but also felt he let a huge upset slip away.
“Maybe if I could have done a couple of other things in my decision-making, we might have won,” Lee said. “But I’m really pleased with how we played as a team. It’s not too often you get chance to beat a team with that much talent. We gave it our best shot and now we’ll keep working hard to get better.”
The Warriors (5-1) held a 59-56 lead with 2:40 remaining after a 3-pointer by Mattos and another driving layup by St. George.
But it was Owens that wouldn’t let his Tigers lose. He scored seven straight points, including a banked-in 15-footer from the free-throw line with 45 seconds left as Trinity Christian grabbed the lead for good at 63-62 lead.
After a Waiakea sophomore Noah Ferreira missed a missed a wide-open floater from about 14 feet with 22 seconds left, junior Jon Cole was fouled and sank both freee throws to stretch the lead to 65-62 with nine seconds left.
After a timeout, the Warriors got the ball to Gahan, their best 3-point shooter. But the Tigers doubled-teamed Gahan, and he passed the ball to Mattos, who dribbled behind the 3-point arc in the left corner and missed the tough trey as time ran out.
Ferguson noted his team had spent almost a week on the Big Island and enjoyed the experience.
“We’ve visited the volcano, the water falls, spent time at a beach in Kona, and overall had had a great time here,” he said. “We’d love to come back. The people of Hawaii have been so nice to us. We’ve had a wonderful time.”
Waiakea 11 14 19 18—62
Hilo 52, Lahainaluna 48 : Jalen Carvalho led the Vikings into the final with 22 points, Austin Dante added 14, including 10 in the fourth period, and EJ Narido had 10.
Ryan Madera had 15 for the Lunas, who played Waiakea in the third-place game Saturday.
Hilo 10 15 12 15 —52
Lahaina. 12 5 20 11 —48
Keaau 52 Pahoa 47 : Isiah Segobia scored 21 points and Edgar Ventura had 15 as the Cougars pulled past the Daggers in the fourth quarter.
Tolby Saito led Pahoa with 17 and Joel Rosario, Jr. chipped in with 11.
Keaau faced Kamehameha for fifth place Saturday, while the Daggers battled Kohala in the seventh-place game
Keaau 12 9 12 19—52
Pahoa 12 7 15 13—47
Kamehameha-Hawaii 81, Kohala 71: Bayley-Allen Manliguis’ 22 points and 20 from Pukana Vincent carried the Warriors.
The Cowboys rode Ryan Caravalho’s 24 points and well as Kealen Figueroa’s nine points.
Kohala 17 17 12 25—71
KS-Hawaii 24 15 21 21—81