Waimea locks up Kaua’i in crucial KIF victory
l Complete game stats, 2B
LIHU’E — In a place where discipline means much more than the pick-and-roll or the back-door cut, what happened Monday in Waimea should come as no surprise.
Concerned that his defense was not working hard enough, Menehunes head coach Matt Taba tossed his players from practice.
“He made us run around the park a couple of times,” senior guard Nikko Naumu said. “We came back ready to go.”
Then came out Tuesday and — in their most important game to date — put the locks on the Kaua’i High School offense for a 50-32 victory.
At least twice on the evening, Waimea played 70 seconds of consecutive defense, rotating in tune with the ball and refusing to give the Red Raiders an open look. At the end of each of those defensive stands, a Menehune was able to make a break on the ball, complete the steal and start a fastbreak.
“Our defense won us this game,” Taba said. “We didn’t give up the easy baskets. We were able to execute the gameplan very well.”
Despite his efforts to conceal, Taba’s joy and relief at having claimed the game shined clear.
“We really needed this one,” the coach said. “Now we’ve got to go get a big one Friday.”
Both Waimea and Kaua’i entered Tuesday’s action with a 1-0 record in the Kaua’i Interscholastic Federation second round. Now 2-0, the Menehunes need only win at Kapa’a Friday night to win the round and force a championship game February 13.
Another defensive effort like Tuesday night and Waimea, now on a four-game winning streak, may do just that.
“We take a lot of pride in our defense,” Naumu said. “We get pretty fired up when we are able to hold and get a stop.”
Something lit Waimea Tuesday night.
The Menehunes did not yield a single double-digit quarter. After watching Kaua’i go on a 6-0 run to open the second half, cutting the Waimea lead to 24-22, the Menehunes reapplied themselves.
Over the remainder of the third period, Waimea went on a 11-1 run, replanting its foot in the ground.
“I thought we did well to go on that run in the third,” Kaua’i head coach Alex Pascual said. “But then our execution broke down again.
“It’s a case where when you get to within two, you have to put a premium on the next possession.”
But the Red Raiders did not, falling victims to the quick hands and obvious energy of Waimea reserve guards Micah Bermoy and Byron Vea.
“They come off the bench and give us a real boost,” Taba said of the tandem. “They turn up the energy.”
Bermoy had three steals in the fourth quarter alone.
“We know that as long as we don’t allow any breakdowns in our defense, something good will happen,” Naumu said. “We’re going to get a steal or something and make it all worth it.”
Aside from the opening three minutes of the third quarter, Waimea controlled the contest. The Red Raiders played solid defense throughout, forcing the Menehunes into 14 turnovers, but could not keep Waimea from getting shots off. Nor could they find room to release many of their own.
“Our timing was off,” Pascual said. “Our boys played really hard, but we just weren’t synchronized tonight.”
Naumu and Keola Karrati led Waimea with 11 points apiece. Lionel Tomacder paced the Red Raiders with 10 points.
By Sports Editor Jason Gallic at 245-3681 or mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org