Thirst for competition takes us back to 2016 and one wild and wet ending

  • Tribune-Herald file photo Kamehameha’s Lahela Rosario, then a sophomore, celebrates her BIIF championship-clinching water polo goal in 2016.

“We in here talking about practice. I mean, listen, we’re talking about practice, not a game. … we talking about practice. … Not the game, but we’re talking about practice, man. I mean, how silly is that?”

Not as silly in 2020.

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Allen Iverson’s incredulous words to the media in 2002 have taken on a new tone the past four-plus months with little in the way of games to talk about.

I was thinking about this the other day when I called a coach who greeted me a chuckle, wondering what the occasion for the call was?

Practice. I want to talk about practice.

Desperate times.

The return of Major League Baseball was welcomed Thursday, but I’m still yearning for a more competitive time. With that in mind, let’s continue looking back at some of the most memorable sporting events that yours truly has been privileged enough to cover during the past 10-plus years.

April 23, 2016: Hawaii Prep vs. Kamehameha water polo

There were seven BIIF championship contests on tap, and I started a busy day poolside, at Kamehameha, for a BIIF water polo title match. The six-time champion Warriors were playing the rare role of underdog against Hawaii Prep, which was undefeated during the regular season.

I only remember three snapshots from this game, and the most vivid one is most definitely of the Warriors’ Lahela Rosario, then a sophomore, treading water with room to maneuver in sudden death overtime with the ball – and the championship – in her hand.

As luck would have it, the dramatic ending is about all Rosario, who is set to enter her junior year at Cal Baptist, remembers from the experience.

“At the end of the game, my teammates faces, I remember the bench still being alive and that feeling,” she said Thursday. “They still believe, so I need to believe in myself.”

Coach Dan Lyons told her to shoot, and it seemed like the words took a while for Rosario to compute, but in actuality she later said she didn’t hear her coach. What she did hear were the thoughts in her head telling her not to shoot.

“I was very shaky, honestly,” she said after the game.

Let’s take a minute to recount how we got here. My other two memories of the game – before I looked back at the game story, that is – were of premature Kamehameha celebrations. The Warriors trailed by three goals until Alyssa Pelanca helped them rally to force overtime at 10-10. Pelanca scored twice in three-minute OT, sandwiched around a score by HPA’s Taylor Doherty, and Kamehameha celebrated when the buzzer went off.

One problem – there was another OT to be played. Janelle Laros tied the game for HPA to force sudden death, which Kamehameha thought it won right off the bat on Katelynn Kubo’s goal, but it was waved off because of a quick start.

On the Warriors next try, Ka Makani pinched in on Pelanca, giving Rosario plenty of room to roam as she held the ball aloft.

Here’s what she recalls: “The shooting the scoring and all the celebration,” she said. “I still remember the (postgame) interview and how I needed self-confidence and how I was lacking self-confidence and being indecisive.”

Rosario sure looked self-assured the remainder of her BIIF career – winning Player of the Year as a senior in 2018 – but she said, “I’m starting my junior year of college, and I’m still working on self-confidence. Me and my teammates in college will talk about it, and it’s like (Coach Dan) used to say, I just have to believe in myself and I can accomplish things.”

Her shining moment as a sophomore provided Rosario with the lesson that, fair or not, to the game-winner goes all the glory.

“I guess now that I’m older, there were so much attention on that last goal, it won us the game, but it was so much more than that,” she said. “Hopoe (Sipinga) made great saves, Alyssa keeping us in the match, Kubo with all of her speed, the bench cheering us on. It was such an amazing team.”

HPA was not to be denied the following year, winning its first title since 2007, but Rosario helped vault the Warriors back on top in 2018.

Rosario scored once during her freshman season at Cal Baptist and played in 12 matches with a goal and four assists before her sophomore season was cut short by the onset of COVID-19.

She’s proud of younger brother Kala’i, a Waiakea alum who recently signed after being drafted by the Minnesota Twins, but she’s focusing on life after athletics. Rosario’s majoring in English with a minor in teaching English as a second language, and has an eye on getting her education certificate in California.

With at least one memorable goal to her credit, she’s got many more ahead.

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“My freshman year (in college) was a big game-changer for me,” she said. “I’m still a water polo player, but now water polo is just something I do, and it makes the sport more enjoyable.

“I’ve had some highs and lows, and I just have to keep reminding myself to believe.”

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