HPA, Kohala won’t have a chance to defend state titles after HHSAA nixes nine championships

  • LAURA RUMINSKi/West Hawaii Today Hawaii Prep and Malia Brost won’t have a shot at an eighth consecutive HHSAA Division II girls soccer championship this year after the governing body canceled championships in nine sports. However, even if the BIIF doesn’t hold a soccer season, Ka Makani still may get to play teams such as Kamehameha this school year if the league’s private schools decide to hold competitions.

The HHSAA hammer dropped on Saturday, nailing shut the hope that teams across the state could compete for state championships in air riflery, basketball, bowling, cheerleading, cross-country, canoe paddling, soccer, swimming and diving, and wrestling.

Those sports are slated to begin on Monday. The BIIF has yet to release schedules in any of those sports, and it’s unlikely there will be BIIF championships.

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One thing is for certain: The Kohala boys basketball won’t get a chance to repeat, and the Hawaii Prep girls soccer team’s state winning streak is snapped after seven years.

HHSAA Executive Director Chris Chun pointed to travel restrictions and the leagues already conducting shortened seasons.

“Our intent for canceling the first set of state tournaments was to allow our member schools the opportunity to participate in a longer league season, rather than a truncated one with regional and state tournament play for only a limited number of schools,” Chun said in a news release. “Although the state tournaments are canceled, leagues are not restricted in conducting their seasons if it is deemed safe to do so. We will continue to work with the Department of Health and government officials for the possibility to hold state tournaments for the remaining sports in late May.”

The sports scheduled for March to May are baseball, football, golf, judo, softball, tennis, track and field, water polo, and volleyball.

The news came as a shock to Kohala coach Kihei Kapeliela. One day he’s reading that his Cowboys were the Tribune-Herald’s top sports story for 2020. Less than 24 hours, he’s digesting how to break the news to his five seniors.

“That’s too bad for the seniors (Moses Emeliano, Zhane Ellazar-Ching, Jeffrey Francisco, Keoni Barco, and Molonai Emeliano),” he said. “I had a pretty good returning class.”

The Cowboys still return O’shen Cazimero – the reigning BIIF player of the year – Koby Agbayani, and La’akea Kauka for their senior seasons next year, but that’s little consolation for a trio who don’t get the chance to play with their lifetime friends in a state title repeat quest.

That punch to the gut feeling also could be felt in Waimea, where only the coronavirus pandemic could stop HPA’s state championship collection.

“Deep down, I knew this was coming,” HPA coach and athletic director said Stephen Perry, who’s guided Ka Makani to the past seven titles. “We were playing next to the fall sports, unfortunately. I hope that’s it.

“I feel for the kids. They don’t get it back.”

One of the complications is that the BIIF and the HHSAA are waiting on the Department of Health to allow students back in the classroom.

Another issue is that coronavirus infections aren’t slowing down. On Saturday, there were 171 new infections reported, including 20 on the Big Island.

If the Department of Educations continues on a cautious path, waiting for the state to get vaccinated, it’ll could be in 2022 when students are given approval to return to school.

For now, it’s more likely than not that the private schools (HPA, Kamehameha, Christian Liberty, Makua Lani, and Parker) may play each other.

There likely won’t be a BIIF championship. But participation is the next best thing during the pandemic, which reached a high of 354 cases on Aug. 4.

On Dec. 28, the ILH canceled the seasons for basketball, bowling, canoe paddling, soccer, and wrestling.

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“Schools are still competing against each other,” Perry said. “We could have the same thing here. If we have three schools, we could have a sport. Each school has their own prerogative, what they feel is right.”

The HHSAA’s decision to cancel the March state championships was definitely felt from Honolulu to the BIIF.

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