Championship path had a bit of everything

Context is everything, right?

If you read this space fairly regularly — thank you, by the way — then you likely know that I try to add as much context as possible to any sort of opinion or comment. I mean, anyone can just throw a claim out there and hope that people buy into it, but even just a little context can make the point that much stronger.

That being said, I think this is the most impressive DII state title that Kauai High has come home with to this point.

When the Red Raiders baseball squad finished off their come-from-behind championship victory on Saturday, it did so by using a pair of sophomores on the mound and a never-ending flair for the dramatic. Hank Ibia’s young squad didn’t back down from the moment and continued to battle its way through a tough draw and difficult circumstances.

I wasn’t there to see the drama unfold, but to have a player ejected (for simple enthusiasm, no less) and to remain focused enough to keep battling and take the lead in the final frame says a lot about the players’ mindsets and what they have going on between the ears.

I played in a youth basketball tournament once where we were tied with the host team in the final seconds and we didn’t get a shot off. Our best player had the ball and as the horn sounded, he spiked it on the court as we went to the bench to get ready for overtime. It was obviously just frustration and nothing malicious, but the ref called a technical foul and sent the other team to the foul line.

Not only that, he said that even though the clock had run out, the points would count towards the fourth quarter and not overtime. Our coach said that if that was the ruling, don’t bother shooting the free throws because he would pull us off the court. Whether that was the right response or not, he and we definitely let frustration get to us in the moment.

The Red Raiders managed to not only rebound from giving up a three-run lead, but also facing a deficit with three outs remaining. They saw one of their seventh-inning heroes ejected and still continued grinding away until they pulled ahead.

This all came after knocking off the top seed in a 10-inning classic and winning their quarterfinal matchup in extra innings. That’s a fairly miraculous run, especially for a team that wasn’t dominant in KIF play.

The 2008 Red Raider squad that was Kauai’s first championship team was the No. 1 seed in the DII bracket. The 2011 team replicated their ’08 predecessors by donning the same blonde hair and came back from Oahu in similar fashion with a state title as the No. 2 seed.

But this team is far removed from that era and needed a lot to go right to pull off the same result. To compare championship teams to one another is tricky, but I think it’s fair to say that this 2017 squad had the most treacherous path, which probably made coach Ibia’s third title run extra sweet.

It took six years for Kauai High to gain its third championship and the result was certainly worth the wait. Whether Kauai High’s next title is shorter or longer than six years removed from this one doesn’t matter much. This 2017 championship will be remembered for a long time as one that required the Raiders to overcome numerous obstacles.

Those are always the ones remembered most fondly.

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David Simon can be reached at dsimon@thegardenisland.com.

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