BIIF boys basketball: It’s a process for Pahoa, which eyes D-II contention

  • MATT GERHART/Hawaii Tribune-Herald
    Pahoa's Lansen Aranaydo drives the lane Friday night during the Daggers' 55-28 win against Hilo Civic.
  • MATT GERHART/Hawaii Tribune-Herald
    Pahoa’s Damon Romero leads a fast-break Friday night against St. Joseph at Hilo Civic. The Daggers won 55-28.

Fill in the blank.

On Friday night, that’s how many points Pahoa probably could have relied on from junior Damon Romero.

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But that’s not what the Daggers needed from their junior standout – maybe Saturday but not Friday – in a 55-28 triumph against St. Joseph in a BIIF boys Division II basketball game at Hilo Civic.

Instead, coach Robert Clifford emptied his bench and made wholesale substitutions in determining which players can fill what roles once the schedule gets tougher.

And tough is likely coming right away.

“Trying to get everybody to play together and get everybody on the same page, that’s the main thing,” Clifford said. “Now we have Kealakehe (on the road Saturday), that’s a Division I team. Now we have to push to see if we can play a D-I team, then we get ready for (the) D-II race.”

Sophomore Jaydan Broad-Melander scored 14 points with six rebounds, Romero added 12 points and eight boards – on the heels of scoring 25 points last Saturday in a escape act at Ka’u – and junior Jaymin Santiago-Burns made three 3-pointers and added nine points for the Daggers (2-0).

“I think we can compete,” Clifford said. “We have a good team this year. We’re very young. Lansen Aranaydo (four assists, three rebounds) is my only senior. We have to come together.”

And when push comes to shove, Romero knows what he has to do.

“Everyone has a role. We need people to rebound, we need people to pass, and they rely on me to score,” Romero said. “I spent my whole summer working on that, so that my team can depend on me. Going to the park everyday.

“It’s not a one-man team. The whole team is going to work together if we are going to win games. If someone else gets hot, of course, we’re going to feed him the ball.”

The Daggers finished 3-10 last season in missing the BIIF semifinals for the second consecutive year. The program’s last BIIF title and state appearance came in 2015 behind high-scoring guard Tolby Saito.

Broad-Melander said Pahoa should have championship aspirations this season.

“On defense we talk a lot, communicate with each other,” he said. “On offense, we move around the ball.”

In Clifford and assistant Ryan Reyes – a former Vulcans basketball player and the son of former UH-Hilo volleyball coach Tino Reyes – the Daggers figure to have one of the more vocal benches in the BIIF.

“I love that, we can rely on them,” Broad-Melander said.

Even with the game well in hand Friday night, Clifford implored his players to run hard – or hit the bench. Reyes reminded them to block out.

“I feel the kids need it, and they respond very well,” Clifford said. “Even though we’re vocal with them, as long as they know we’re positive in the end.”

For all intents and purposes, Pahoa’s 13-0 first-quarter run against the Cardinals (0-1) signified the beginning of the end.

Romero and Broad-Melander made three-point plays sandwiched around a Santiago-Burns 3-pointer as Pahoa surged from a 6-6 tie.

The Daggers led 27-12 at the half and scored the first 15 points of the third quarter. Romero made three baskets, including a steal and layup before his night was done, and Duke Palma added two baskets.

Palma led the Daggers with two steals.

Siam Thomas led St. Joseph with seven points, and Evan Costales and William Nakamura each had six.

“We focus on improving every day,” Romero said. “We’re the underdogs. Nobody believes in us.”

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Yet.

“Don’t sleep on us,” he said.

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