WAIMEA — Two seconds left on the clock, and the Menehune had one last chance at a game-winner.
On the inbounds pass, Menehune junior forward Joel Soriano received the ball and launched a shot from just inside the three-point line as time expired. Swish.
Soriano’s buzzer-beater completed Waimea’s come from behind effort to defeat Kapaa, 60-59, Wednesday evening at Waimea High School.
“It was amazing. Just cross that off the bucket list,” Soriano said. “I felt like Kobe right there.”
At a minute left, Waimea (1-0 KIF) faced a near double-digit deficit. The Menehune began fouling and called multiple timeouts to preserve time.
“A lot of the coaches said, ‘Hey, you’re lucky you saved your timeouts.’ There’s a reason why,” said Waimea head coach Dino Pabre. “You never know what situation you’re going to be in. We were able to utilize our timeouts, our fouls and our possessions exactly how we wanted it. In this game, it worked out.”
Soriano scored 11 of his 14 points in the final period — nine from outside the three-point arc.
“Me and my teammates just tried to play hard. We were not going to give up. We just played until the end,” Soriano said.
Pabre added: “What a way to start the season. All year, we’ve been learning to get better — getting stronger in the weight room and getting in shape. Everything we did prior to this contributed to what happened here tonight. It’s a testament to all the hard work of our kids. … Kapaa, they always come ready to play. We’re just fortunate that shot went in.”
Prior to Soriano’s game-winner, Kapaa (0-2 KIF) had a 59-58 lead with two seconds left and control of the ball.
On an inbounds pass, however, the Warriors turned the ball over to give Waimea the last possession.
“This is just my philosophy. I don’t think any game comes down to the very end,” said Kapaa assistant coach Bronson Bautista. “A lot of it comes down to, look at the beginning. We get big leads, then we let them back in the game. You can’t do that to anybody. Any team who gives anybody a shot, you’ve seen it tonight.”
Bautista added on whether the loss was simply a bad break: “I say yeah, and I say no.”
“I’m not going to take anything away from Waimea. You got to make shots to win, yeah?” he said. “The guy took a shot, and he made it. We could have played a bit better on defense. We could have made better rotations. Coaches could have done better. All around, we could have done better. … Energy-wise, it was there. They played their hearts out. Other than that, we got to do the little things.”
Soriano also had six rebounds, four assists and two blocks in Wednesday’s contest. Menehune junior guard D.J. Pabre had 14 points — seven in the fourth quarter — three rebounds and two assists. Senior guard Kasen Castro also had 14 points along with three rebounds and a steal.
Warriors senior guard Triston Hawelu led Kapaa’s offense with 15 points along with two assists, two rebounds and a steal. Junior guard Teili Fonua had 14 points, eight rebounds and an assist. Senior forward Morris Unutoa had 10 points, eight rebounds and a block.
“I think that we could have worked harder, and make more of our free throws,” Hawelu said.
Kapaa was 16-27 from the free throw line, and Waimea was 12-23.
“It was just really intense and nerve-wracking,” Hawelu added. “Really disappointing. … They (the coaches) were just telling us we need to be more focused in practice.”
Waimea also won the junior varsity game, 34-31. D.J. Sabo had 17 points for the JV Menehune, and Kurtis Fujito-Pascua had 12 points for the JV Warriors.
Waimea will next play at Kauai High (1-0 KIF) on Wednesday. The JV game will begin 5:30 p.m. and the varsity will follow.
Kapaa will play at Kauai High on Saturday, Jan. 7.