KALAHEO — One point was the difference in the two opening games for the county’s 14 and Under boys basketball season that opened Monday night at the Kalaheo Neighborhood Center.
Cameron Largusa, splitting his charity pair in overtime, provided the margin for Laukona in its 46-45 edge over C-Town in Game 1.
Brandon Taylor exploded for 8 of his game-total dozen points to lead the Island Athletics to a 20-19 win over Wailua in Game 2.
“It’s going to be an exciting season,” said Steven Carvalho, one of the referees for the opening night. “There’re eight teams and the teams are pretty equal.”
Charlie Ortiz, the second referee at the games, agreed. “There’re going to be battles.”
With their victories, both teams had to battle back from halftime deficits, Laukona chasing a 31-24 deficit in Game 1 while Island Athletics was looking at a 13-6 halftime lag.
Devon Flores pulled Laukona into the fray with six ticks left in Period 5 as the acrobatic guard nailed a charity pair to give Laukona its first lead of the night 37-36 as the buzzer ran out.
This was set up earlier in the period as Laukona capitalized on C-Town turnovers, and on one spectacular play, saw the ball being passed from Kahale Fagarang to Jason Iloreta to Paleku Yasay who capped the play in heavy defensive traffic.
A late-game drive by Cody Morden tied the contest 43-43, and a long inbound pass from Austin Simao to Bransen Agu with one second left bounced off the rim to force the overtime.
As in regulation, C-Town struck first as Simao nailed a charity pair only to have Yasay stalemate the contest on a breakaway bucket.
That brought it down to Largusa’s charity pair that was shot with the crowd on both sides of the gym cheering on their respective teams.
Four Laukona players led the effort on 9-point notes. Fagarang, Morden, Yasay and Largusa finished with 9 points each followed by Flores adding 8 points. A pair from Iloreta rounded out the win.
C-Town got 11 first-half points from Kekoa Colipano to build on its 31-24 lead, and despite an 8-point performance from Nicholas Chow in the second half, fell short.
Simao paced C-Town with 12 first-half points including a pair from beyond the three-point arc, but was held to just 6 second-half points including the overtime pair. He finished with a game-high 18 points followed by Chow’s 14 points and Colipano’s 11 points. A pair from Agu rounded out the effort.
“I’m glad they made us play C-Town first,” Laukona head coach Edwin Yasay said following his team’s win. “C-Town always gives us problems so I’m glad we could deal with them early.”
For coach Darrel Simao, the loss was a pill that needed to be swallowed.
“This is my first community loss on opening night,” Simao said. “We’ve played in a lot of games and we’ve always been able to win on opening night.”
Taylor ignited Island Athletics with a game-high dozen points in Game 2. Taylor, the tall No. 3 player for the Athletics, worked the inside for shots to pace the Athletics with 4 of its 6 first-half points before exploding for 8 second-half points, including six in the fifth period.
Dallas Correa added four points for the Athletics with pairs from Maleana Ledesma and Todd Hirano rounding out the win.
Mark Hatchell led the Wailua effort with 8 points followed by William Rabot dropping 5 points. Jordan Cummings followed with 4 points and a pair from Bradley Coloma rounded out the effort.
Tonight’s contest will see the remaining four teams in the league take the floor when the Lihu‘e Lakers tangle with Kaulupono starting at 6 p.m. The Gee Unit will match up against Team Central in the nightcap starting at 7 p.m.