By KEVIN JAKAHI
It worked all season, so Kamehameha wasn’t going to deviate from its ride-the-horse hitting philosophy, and Hilo came well-prepared for the BIIF Division I championship, which doubled as a digging showcase.
The Vikings knew the Warriors would rely heavily on junior outside hitter Nani Spaar, and she took a whopping 110 swings, more than half of her team’s 213 total attacks.
Hilo played with a football mentality — make fewer mistakes than the opposition — to prevail over Kamehameha 25-22, 24-26, 25-18, 26-24 to capture the BIIF crown on Thursday at Ellison Onizuka Gym.
“Hilo was fantastic and prepared. They dug balls like maniacs,” Kamehameha coach Guy Enriques said. “My philosophy is if you have a horse, then ride it. Hilo forced us to do different things to get a point. The dug everything.”
Kamehameha (16-1) will host Waianae (11-3) in the first round of the HHSAA tournament at 4 p.m. Monday at Koaia Gym.
The Warriors beat the Seariders in the preseason, and it’s more likely than not that the OIA’s No. 5 team will employ Hilo’s game plan: double-team Spaar and hope to win transition battles.
When the ball was going back and forth during rallies, the Viks put away more balls on second and third swings.
Spaar finished with 35 kills but had 25 errors and a .091 hitting clip, slightly better than Kamehameha’s .047 hitting percentage. The Warriors had 44 hitting miscues. Hilo hit just .085 but finished with 27 errors, the definition of not beating yourself.
Taina Leao starred for Hilo with 14 kills, a .102 hitting clip, and 20 digs. She had a lot of defensive help. Libero Siena Mizuno had 28 digs, Taylor Canon had 14 digs, defender Jamie Chun added 12 digs, and setter Erica Canon had 11 digs.
Kamehameha libero Mahina Kenoi picked up 26 digs, Tiani Bello had eight kills and 24 digs, setter Sierra Scanlan added 14 digs and Loke Kuamoo got 10 digs.
Meanwhile, OC16 is a neighbor island coach’s best friend. The Kamehameha coaching staff already worked on a scouting report.
“They can stack their block, but Nani is good enough to hit around things or do other options. That was her worst hitting night and ours collectively as a team. Hopefully, other kids will step up,” Enriques said.
No. 4 seed Hilo (16-1) will play the Kahuku-Farrington winner at 5 p.m. Thursday at Oahu’s McKinley High gym.
Should the Vikings win, they’ll likely play defending state champion Kamehameha-Kapalama in the semifinal, no doubt a much tougher road.
Often lost in Kamehameha’s one-two punch of Spaar and Bello, who took 46 swings, is the steady presence of Scanlan, the daughter of former Vulcan Eden Scanlan.
Scanlan had 46 assists and one serve-receive reception error, a pretty good stat considering servers target setters to throw a monkey wrench into an offense’s rhythm.
“Our freshman setter is pretty consistent. For the most part, she’s somebody we can count on night to night,” Enriques said. “She’s one of the best setters in the state. She trains probably harder than anybody else on her own. Her success is a credit to her club coaches and her mom.”
Her club team is HI Intensity, coached by Carla Carpenter-Kabalis, the NAIA and UHH Hall of Famer.
Enriques pointed out that Scanlan was gifted with good genes, but she works to polish her game. Her dad is St. Joseph basketball coach Mike Scanlan, which explains her good footwork.
“She spends a lot of time outside of the court,” Enriques said. “She’s a homemade kid and loves the game. She deserves a lot of kudos for the extra time she puts in. It’s her first chance to set big-time players (Spaar and Bello), and she’s been fantastic.”