HPA edges Honokaa in PKs, reaches BIIF final
By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
HONOKAA — Besides his sure hands, Hawaii Prep sophomore goalie Trent Wise’s next best quality on the soccer field is probably his ice-cold composure, maybe an environmental benefit because he was born in Juno, Alaska.
Wise made a ton of saves but none bigger than a key save in double overtime, and the last stop in penalty kicks as HPA outlasted Honokaa 2-1 at the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II semifinals Thursday.
The No. 3-seeded Ka Makani clinched a spot to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament, which runs Feb. 13-15 on Oahu, returning to states for the second straight year.
In the other semifinal, No. 1 Christian Liberty defeated Kamehameha 3-1. As the BIIF regular season champion, the Canefire already had a berth to states.
HPA (9-3-3) will play Christian Liberty (11-3) for the BIIF Division II championship at 5 p.m. Saturday at Kamehameha’s Paiea Stadium.
Ka Makani last won the league title in 2005 before statewide classification started in 2008. The Canefire, in the final for the third consecutive time, are shooting for their first BIIF crown.
The Dragons (8-3-3) will play the Warriors (7-3-5) at 3 p.m. Saturday for the league’s third and final berth to states. Last season, Honokaa stayed home after falling to Christian Liberty in the semifinals.
A year ago, No. 4 seed Konawaena, now a Division I school, upset No. 1 HPA, turning the other semifinal into a winner-take-all state berth game between Honokaa and Christian Liberty.
On an overcast day, with mild wind conditions, the Dragons had more than their share of chances to take the less-traveled road to states, but HPA’s Wise kept making big saves.
Wise started playing soccer in the sixth grade. No, not on Alaska’s snow. There are indoor turf gyms. Then his family moved to the Big Island after his seventh grade year, and he won the starting HPA goalie’s job as a freshman.
“I’m trained to be calm all the time,” said Wise of his goal-tending demeanor. “It feels amazing to win in shootouts. It’s never happened to me. It’s the second time I’ve ever been in PKs and the first was in AYSO. It’s unreal that we’re going to play for the championship.”
In the first half, the rate of exchange as far as ball possession was pretty even between Honokaa and HPA, which connected better on passes for the first 20 minutes. The Dragons turned the tables for the next 20 minutes, and both teams saw a back-and-forth battle in the second half.
Often with Tony Connors trapping balls, surveying the field and finding open teammates, Honokaa had better ball-control and took far more quality shots in the two 10-minute overtime periods, 8-3. For the first 80 minutes, the Dragons outshot Ka Makani, 14-11.
“We didn’t finish. That’s been the story of our season,” Honokaa coach Maurice Miranda said. “Our guys sometimes get hurried in front of the net and swing for the fences. We just have to put it in the back of the net.
“We came out a bit shaky, but found our footing. We connected better in the two overtimes and created a lot of chances. But it was the same thing. We couldn’t finish.”
Ka Makani coach Richard Braithwaite remembers the last time the two teams played Honokaa’s defense was organized and the offense counter-attacked for two goals in a 2-0 victory last Friday in Waimea.
The third-year coach made a lineup tweak that paid dividends, sticking forward Zen Simone at fullback, despite the sophomore’s lack of experience.
“Zen is aggressive and smart, but he’s never played back there before. But he figured it out on the fly,” said Braithwaite, who noted that sweeper Blake Hooser played his best game of the season.
In the first half, Ka Makani senior forward Kama Hurwitz was a terror, hustling down the flanks after every attack and putting pressure on Honokaa’s backline. That eventually opened up the other side of the field.
At the 22-minute mark Kharim Barthson won a ball near the right corner flag, dribbled past his defender and fed Keisuke Anzai, who fronted goalie Elzer Maltezo and scored. It was a perfect timing play because Anzai had to wait for the pass — run too early and a defender shadows or streak late and the goalie gets the ball.
The Dragons, up to that point, couldn’t find the final pass before the shot. Then Connors’s ball-handling stabilized the offense and Honokaa started playing fast-break soccer, getting the equalizer about eight minutes later.
It was on a textbook inside-out overlap run, when Connors settled a ball, passed to forward Seanry Agbayani, who pushed the ball back out to Preston Branco, flying down the left sideline. He had a clear lane and rifled home the score for a 1-1 tie.
Then in the two OTs, every time Honokaa took a quality shot Wise positioned himself in the right spot and secured balls with vise-grip assurance, none better than when Chance Salva had a long throw-in that found Branco, who headed it straight to the HPA sophomore keeper.
After 1 hour and 40 minutes of deadlock 1-1 soccer, the game went to penalty kicks, and the pressure kept cranking after the first six shooters all converted.
Then Simone booted a ball left that hit the back of the net. Honokaa’s Zech Uglade was next for a chance to tie it 7-7 and force another round of shooters. Uglade kicked it down the middle, and Wise came up the game-winning block.
“There are a lot of things that Trent does well, but he’s got the best hands I’ve ever seen,” Braithwaite said. “If he catches the ball he doesn’t drop it. On that overtime header that he caught, some other goalies might bobble it and someone pops one home.
“He’s been working with a goalie coach on his footwork and positioning. Trent always seems to be in the right place. When I look up, he’s already leaning the right way.”
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