KAILUA-KONA — Hawaii Prep is one game away from once again being crowned the top Division II team on the Big Island.
Now, the only team standing in the way of a HPA three-peat is last year’s opponent.
No. 1 Ka Makani will face No. 2 Kohala at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Kealakehe in the fight for the BIIF D-II boys basketball title after Kohala defeated No. 3 Pahoa 60-44 in their semifinal game Tuesday to advance.
The game will be a rematch of last year’s title game, which Ka Makani won 78-58 to finish their 2018-19 BIIF season undefeated.
Ka Makani’s road to the championship game and a third consecutive BIIF title has been mostly smooth sailing this season, with their only loss being against Waiakea, 49-46, on Jan. 25.
Tuesday’s semifinal game was no different.
HPA senior Umikoa Kealoha scored 12 points to lead Ka Makani to a 61-36 victory over the No. 4 Honokaa Dragons at Kealakehe High School in the BIIF Division II boys basketball semifinals.
Junior Kelsen-Jaye Walker scored 11 for HPA, and sophomore Bear Wawner finished with 10 against Honokaa. The two squads had just faced each other last week, with HPA winning that matchup 56-42.
“We had just played Honokaa recently, and it was a close game the entire time,” HPA head coach Fred Wawner said. “I think we had a little bit of that knowledge and we knew what we were capable of today.”
Tre Walker scored seven points and tallied seven assists for HPA. Javan Perez scored eight points, Michael Hughes six, and Justin Lima finished with five.
“Really our whole focus was getting stops on the defensive end,” Fred Wawner said. “We knew our offense would come, but we needed to not let them get back.”
The Dragons ended the first quarter down by nine, and began the second with a 3-point shot from Warren Tabucbuc to keep themselves in the game and whittle HPA’s lead to 17-11.
It was the closest Honokaa would get to Ka Makani, as HPA rebounded quickly to score 12 in the second quarter to close out the first half ahead 29-13.
“We played them really well last week, and I thought we had learned from our mistakes,” Honokaa head coach Jayme Carvalho said. “But give credit to HPA, they came to play. They’ve got a lot of experience, they made their easy shots, and they made their free throws. In the second half, we started 0-6 on our free throws right when we started to come back.”
Emery Eberhard led the Dragons with nine points and six rebounds. Tabucbuc finished with eight points and one assist. Zakhry Mattos scored seven for Honokaa, and Chylou Nobriga Guerpo and Justin Pascua both chipped in with three.
With the win against Honokaa, Ka Makani also clinched a spot in the state tournament.
“This was a tough game, and there was a lot riding on it, that’s not really a secret so I think we carried a little bit of that,” Wawner said. “Our league is good, so we’re excited to fight for a championship tomorrow against a team that’s very good.”
Carvalho said the Dragons had been plagued by bad luck all season, with injuries affecting the team’s depth.
“We had three starters out from the start of the season. From the first day out, we were missing three starters,” Carvalho said. “And then our first guy off the bench broke his hand, and then another starter went out. It’s just life, it’s about adjusting, adapting, and right at the end, we weren’t able to adapt and adjust.”
Carvalho said he still had a lot of reasons to be proud of his team despite the loss.
“I told them, you might not be a pro basketball player, but you might be a pro in something else in your life. So there’s more than just basketball for these kids. And we’re working them on and off the court, because if they’re not fixing their efficiency off the court they’ll never fix it on the court,” Carvalho said. “We trained hard, and we’ve got a lot of good boys and four seniors this year, and good luck to them. And we do return a lot of guys next year.”
No. 2 Kohala 60, No. 3 Pahoa 44: The Cowboys defeated the Daggers behind a 14-point performance from Molonai Emeliano.
“We’re really excited,” Kohala head coach Kihei Kapeliela said of Wednesday’s title rematch against HPA. “We worked hard all year for it, and it wasn’t easy. Every game is a battle. We just play our hardest, and whatever happens, happens.”
In their game last week, HPA beat Kohala 69-59.
“We had a terrible game the first time we played them this year, and the boys are excited to give it another chance,” Kapeliela said.
Elijah Antonio scored 13 points for the Cowboys, O’Shen Cazimero 10, Koby Agbayani eight, and Moses Emeliano scored five.
The star of the game for the Daggers was senior Damon Romero, who led both teams with a game-high 21 points.
Barreon Holland scored 12 for Pahoa, and Jaydan Broad-Melander and Keanu Muck both chipped in with five.
“We just had a couple mental lapses throughout portions of the game,” Pahoa head coach Ryan Reyes said. “Kohala is a really good team — you make mental lapses like that, they’re going to capitalize on that.
“We didn’t reach our potential, but I feel like we got better from day one, and we’re striving to get better as a program.”