Youthful Kailua will make return trip to DII championship game Kamehameha, 'Iolani make it an all-ILH final
Boys Basketball State Championships boxscores
• Photo gallery: Boys state basketball Friday
By Leila Wai
Advertiser Staff Writer
Surpassing expectations, the Kailua boys basketball team is back in the state championship game.
Kailua defeated Academy of the Pacific, 54-51, in the semifinals of the HHSAA/Hawaiian Airlines Boys Basketball Division II State Championships last night at Kalani High School.
"Last year we had a veteran team, and this year we have a very young team," Kailua coach Tim Harrison said. "All these guys that are going to be playing in the final, except Corey (Lau), all of them sat on the bench last year, they didn't play much.
"This is a brand new squad. I don't think we expected to be back because this is such a young, inexperienced squad."
The Surfriders (15-4), the defending Division II state champions, returned only one starter, senior point guard Lau, from the team that won last year. They play Pāhoa (8-9) of the Big Island Interscholastic Federation for the championship tonight at the Stan Sheriff Center at 5 p.m.
"We started off kind of slow this season, but as it came, we gradually picked up our game, and we're peaking at the right time, just like last year," Lau said. "We weren't playing our best basketball, but we're starting to get there."
Both teams opened with deliberate styles, staying in their systems. The result was a 6-3 lead by the Dolphins after the first quarter.
"That's what we wanted to do," AOP coach Dr. Charles "Chic" Hess said of their methodical play. "We wanted to keep our five players in the game and hopefully dictate the tempo."
But both teams were more aggressive on offense in the second quarter. AOP went on a 12-2 run led by two 3-pointers by junior guard Micah Dunhour to give it a 20-11 lead, but the Surfriders closed to 20-15 at the half.
Kailua sophomore guard Isaiah Vasconcellos tied it at 30 with 1:25 left in the third quarter, and the teams were tied at 33-all entering fourth.
"We wanted to go inside to Jordan (DeCorte) to get them in foul trouble," Lau said. "And then we wanted to kick it out to our shooters like Rhys Nakakura, but it wasn't really open. In the second half we started to create more and take it to the basket."
AOP suffered a big loss when senior forward/center Trent Valentine, the lone starting senior, fouled out with 7:31 left in the fourth quarter. The Dolphins played with the same starting five for most of the season, rarely substituting. Starter David Daniels, a sophomore guard, also fouled out with 22.3 seconds left.
"It changed our game plan, that's for sure. We had to resort to the individual talents of the kids, and I have some talented kids, but it's not the way I like to play,"Hess said. "It's what we had to do at that point in time."
The Surfriders took the lead for good at 40-39 on a free throw by DeCorte, a senior center, with 5:24 remaining in the game. Kailua extended its lead to 47-40 on a basket by junior forward Ethan Mahaulu, although the Dolphins pulled to within 54-51 on a putback by junior forward Simon Koch with 9.5 seconds to go.