KAPAA — Kapaa High’s Alaka‘i Gonsalves drove up the middle for a bucket Saturday during a Kauai Interscholastic Federation varsity boys basketball game at Bernice Hundley Gym that was nearly filled to capacity with appreciative fans and supporters of both teams.
The unchallenged bucket, however, triggered the buzzer that settled a bucket short of forcing overtime as the Kauai High team walked off with a 52-50 edge.
“Both teams had unchallenged shot opportunities,” said Kapaa coach Kamahalo Kauhane. “Unfortunately for us, they knocked theirs in, and we didn’t.”
The two-point loss in the varsity contest split the Warriors’ home outing in the second round after the junior varsity Warrior squad took control of its outing with a 48-31 win over the Red Raider JV.
Solomone Malafu topped the JV Warrior win with 16 points after erupting for 11 of those marks in the second half when the JV Warriors pulled away from a 21-18 lead at the break. Cee Jay Vidinha added eight points to the win, and Michael Questin finished with seven points — all dropping in the pull-away second half.
Xander Martinez topped the JV Red Raider effort on eight points, all in the third quarter. Syrus Delos Reyes dropped his six points in the first half.
Fueled by the JV win, the Warriors worked hard to contain the explosive Red Raider varsity squad that worked through turnovers and fouls to establish a tight, one-point margin, 13-12, at the end of the first quarter.
“These are just 16-year-old kids,” Kauai coach Ipo Yoshioka said. “They’re going to make mistakes. We just got to keep fighting back. They’ll work through it.”
Kapaa kept up the pressure in the second quarter, but the persistent Kauai “work” began to clear the slate as the Red Raiders built up a three-point bulge at the break behind a six-point effort from Keane Tibon, and five points from Jaren Ruiz-Acantilado, who found the target from outside the three-point arc for the the first time in the outing.
The Kauai performance also included a perfect four-for-four showing from the charity stripe, as defense on both sides of the court sent the Warriors to the free-throw line, where they could muster just a point in five showings.
Gonsalves topped the Kapaa shooting with seven of Kapaa’s 13 points in the second quarter for the 28-25 deficit at the break.
“This was not anything we didn’t expect,” Kauhane said. “Our boys executed the way we wanted them to. Our defense got Ricky Malu Ralston into foul trouble, and kudos to whomever took his place.”
Halftime adjustments worked for Kauai High, which limited Kapaa to just six points in the third stanza, while the Red Raider offense cleaned up its shooting for a 14-6 run, including a pair of treys from Mikey Manera and Luke Hunadi that triggered strong cheers from the red-shirted fans as the scoreboards displayed a 42-31 Kauai lead at the end of three quarters.
Kapaa was not over, yet, coming back with a strong 19-10 final stanza showing, led by Jhencen Cummings finding the net on five points, and Justin Faidley and Moses Ho each netting four points, including a Ho three-ball.
Kauai countered with a three-ball from Tibon and a pair of buckets from Jim Ehia while milking the clock on its lead in the second half, where the fouls were cleaned up to where both teams were at the foul line for just three appearances apiece.
“This was a good defensive contest,” Yoshioka said. “It showed us how much more work we have. We’re back in the gym again, and the boys have to work hard. There is still a lot more basketball ahead of us, and there is still a lot of good games coming up.”
The red-shirted fans will be out in force Tuesday night when Kauai hosts Waimea High, when the JV contest tips off at 5:30 p.m. followed by the varsity matchup. Warrior fans will be at the Bernice Hundley Gym when Kapaa hosts Island School in a single match starting at 7 p.m.
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.