Champion Red Raiders gather for banquet

KAPAIA — For the players, it was one last gathering together.

For the coaches, family, friends and supporters, it was one last chance to acknowledge the team as a whole.

“It was a very nice moment — a good way to finish the season,” said Kauai High Red Raider senior infielder Sam Nakata. “To be around all our parents, family members and players, we got to see each other again. It was a nice night to eat and talk story. It was just a good way to end it.”

Kauai High’s varsity baseball team, winner of this year’s Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II state championship, held its annual end-of-the-season banquet and awards ceremony Saturday evening in Kapaia.

“It’s pretty special. It was a pretty special ride for the guys that I had this year through the ups and downs,” said head coach Hank Ibia. “Just overwhelmed. The hard work we put in all year long and deciding what we’re going to be and what we’re going to be doing, I believe in this.”

He added: “I told them, ‘It takes a certain breed of people to be state champions. You can’t win the state championship whenever you like. It takes a certain breed.’ These guys are the guys.”

During the festivities, every member of the team was recognized with various awards.

“It mean a lot to me,” said senior infielder Travis Borrero, who was given the Team Player award. “I haven’t played much, but I just kept that attitude that I always wanted to be in. It paid off, and just really thankful for it.”

Following the awards ceremony, the crowd was shown a slideshow of the past season.

Also, highlights were shown from the state championship game, in which the Red Raiders won the state crown over Damien Memorial School of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu.

“It was great. It was us kind of reliving the moment again — watching the Damien game, watching (senior infielder Matthew Panit) making the final putout to me and just reliving the moment again,” Nakata said.

Ibia said of the slideshow and game highlights: “I can watch them every day right now. It’s something, you get to stay with it for a while, then after a while you got to let it go. Then there’s the upcoming season. By September, we’re already training.”

Following an unforgettable season, Saturday’s ceremony bookended the school year and the high school careers of the team’s five seniors: Nakata, Borrero, Panit, Blaise Gokan and Royce Uemura.

“It was very emotional,” said Borrero. “We just graduated, too. Especially from that, it’s just very emotional.”

For Ibia, it was one final time to thank the team and wish them well.

“For the seniors, good luck to wherever they go. Whether it’s college, the service or wherever. They went through a couple of tough seasons with me,” he said. “I tip my hat off to them, and thank them for coming back and giving me the chance to coach them one more year.

“To my underclassmen, it takes a lot of work. We got to work even harder now,” Ibia continued. “We stand where we stand right now. In order to accomplish something like this, it takes a lot of work.”

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