LIHUE — Completing two consecutive regular seasons unbeaten and winning the Kauai Interscholastic Federation championship is quite the achievement.
“For me, it’s an accomplishment for these kids,” said Kauai varsity boys basketball head coach Ipo Yoshioka during Tuesday evening’s practice at the Kauai High School gym. “Kapaa went five years (winning KIF) – that’s huge. Anything you go consecutive is huge for any team on Kauai. It’s fun to watch. It’s fun to coach. You got to be proud of these kids.”
Now, the Red Raider boys — who were 16-0 in the last two KIF seasons — are focused on taking advantage of another shot at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II boys basketball tournament.
“It was unreal that we got this chance to go back to states. I think we’re ready for this,” said Kauai senior center Melvin Tingzon.
Kauai was 0-2 at last year’s tournament. The team lost to Kohala of the Big Island, 71-56, in the opening round, and then lost to Saint Francis School of Oahu, 71-61, in a consolation game.
Tingzon said last year’s team was wide-eyed for the level of competition at the tournament and wasn’t ready for it. He believes that experience has prepared him and his teammates for a second go-around.
“Last year, we really didn’t expect anything. We didn’t know what we were going against. But this year, we know the competition,” he said. “We’ve been going really hard. We’ve been pushing each other. I think we’re just making each other better.”
Kauai will play No. 4 seed Hawaii Baptist Academy of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu at 7 p.m. today at Farrington High School in the opening round of the New City Nissan Boys Basketball State Championships — Division II tournament.
Kauai and HBA previously played in this year’s preseason tournament at Kapaa High School. Kauai lost in overtime.
Yoshioka said defense and rebounding will be key in order to come out on top and advance in the tournament.
“That’s the two biggest keys that we talked about all year, not only in the state tournament, but also right here in the KIF,” he said. “As a coach, we prepare just as hard as they do on and off the court. We got to be a better, sound team overall to be on top on Thursday. Not only just the players, but us as coaches. Hopefully, we’ll put it all together on Thursday and take one step forward.”
Senior guard Michael Booth added that patience on offense will also be a factor.
“Sometimes, we have a way of really rushing the ball and try to throw some nice, fancy passes,” he said. “All we need to do is just need to stick to the basics and be patient. I think that’s really going to help us. And communicating. That should be good.”
“Last year’s team was a really good team. But this year’s team is really special, I think. It’s just special because we have a way of overcoming adversity,” Booth added.
As the only KIF representative, Yoshioka said he hopes his team will have a good showing, not only for themselves, but for the other schools of Kauai as well.
“You go up there to be competitive, and make an impact of who you are and where you’re from,” he said. “We represent the whole island. Not just Kauai High School, but the entire island, all the schools and all the student bodies.”