KAPAA — The Red Raiders can punch their ticket to states.
Kauai High School’s varsity boys basketball team defeated Kapaa, 53-42, Friday evening to clinch the Kauai Interscholastic Federation championship — the school’s first since the 2014-15 season.
“It’s great for these kids,” said Kauai head coach Ipo Yoshioka. “Since they were freshmen, they played hard. (Last year), they just came up short. Now, (guards Joseph Cumlat and Bryce Johnson-Cormack) are seniors. This is for them. And they work so hard. All of them, all the players on the team. They pushed themselves, and I’m so excited for them.”
Kauai (7-0 KIF, 3-0 2nd round) led after the third quarter, 36-31. The Red Raiders then started the final period with a quick five-point swing to extend their lead to double digits.
“We’ve sort of done that throughout the season,” Yoshioka said. “(It’s about) preparation — preparation from offseason and all the way through. We’re going to keep working hard. We’ve got one more game. The season’s not over. We’ve got to come back to work and get ready for that.”
Kapaa cut into the deficit as time went on. A three-pointer by junior guard Teili Fonua got the Warriors to within three points with just more than three minutes left.
“It’s always a dogfight. That’s the great thing about the KIF,” said Kapaa head coach Kamahalo Ka’uhane. “Everybody’s working hard every week and making adjustments. Just really proud of the effort. Every game that these kids went through, they continued to improve. We had a lot of close games.”
Kapaa, however, would not inch any closer. Red Raiders junior guard Christian Manera nailed back-to-back three-pointers to put Kauai High back in control.
Free throws down the stretch would ensure the Red Raiders’ victory and secure the league title.
“It’s a big accomplishment. We’ve been looking forward to this since the beginning of the season,” Manera said of clinching the KIF crown. “We came up short last year. So, it’s a really great feeling.”
Manera got 12 points — eight in the fourth quarter, five rebounds and four assists for Kauai High. Johnson-Cormack had 15 points, three rebounds and a steal. Sophomore guard Kaimani Tecson had six points, nine rebounds and three blocks.
Fonua had seven points, a steal and a rebound for Kapaa (1-6 KIF, 1-2 2nd round). Senior forward Saxsen Shiira had 12 points — 10 in the first quarter — seven rebounds and an assist. Senior forward Carson Schmick had four points, nine rebounds and a block.
Friday was Kapaa’s senior night. Six Warriors played their last home game: Shiira, Schmick, guards Jake Rhon Peralta, Triston Hawelu and Jalen Tacsiat, and forward Mikela Matayoshi.
“It’s not the way we wanted to go out,” Shiira said. “It’s everyone’s dream to win KIF and win on their senior night. But I feel we played a hard game. … It’s an honor to play along these guys I call my brothers.”
Ka’uhane said of the seniors: “They’re a bunch of guys that really enjoy each other. They play for each other. They continued to set an example, and that’s all you can as for as a coach — make sure you set the standard of what we want as Kapaa basketball.
“They’ve been mentors for all of our underclassmen, and we hope they continue to show that in the final game of the season. So, we’re pretty thankful for these seniors. They got a lot of heart, and they’ve been through a lot.”
Kauai also won the junior varsity contest, 45-36. Freshman Ricky Malu Ralston scored 10 points for the JV Red Raiders, and sophomore Kesomei Fonua had 12 for the JV Warriors.
Kapaa will play at Waimea (2-4 KIF, 0-2 2nd round) on Tuesday. The JV game will begin 5:30 p.m. and the varsity will follow.
Kauai High will host Waimea on Friday to conclude the KIF boys basketball season.