LIHU‘E — Kaua‘i High School’s Ricky Malu Ralston ignited the crowd with not just one, but back-to-back slams into the hoop, Tuesday night during the Kaua‘i Interscholastic Federation boys basketball games against Kapa‘a High at Kaua‘i High.
Ralston, one of five seniors celebrated during the Kaua‘i senior night, led the explosive fourth quarter when the Red Raiders pulled ahead from a 24-24 third-quarter stalemate toward its 43-32 victory before an appreciative crowd that overflowed the gym.
“This was a fun game to watch,” said Kaua‘i coach Ipo Yoshioka. “This was a nice, controlled environment — perfect for basketball.”
The result, in addition to the final home game for five Red Raiders, gave the KIF boys basketball crown to the Kaua‘i High team, which still has a game remaining on its calendar.
“One more game, one more step,” Yoshioka said. “This win was well deserved for the boys. They worked hard through practice and played good defense tonight. We’re so proud of how they handled themselves.”
The Kapa‘a Warriors took the court with a strong defensive presence, holding Kaua‘i scoreless for the first four minutes of play and holding the Raiders to a 10-10 stalemate at the end of the first stanza. “It was intense defense,” said Kapa‘a coach Kamahalo Kauhane. “Both Kaua‘i and Waimea are capable of making big plays, but key blocks kept the scoring low.”
The defensive slugfest continued through two more quarters with the score deadlocked 24-24 at the end of the third quarter before Kaua‘i pulled the trigger in the fourth stanza by outgunning Kapa‘a 19-8 in the stretch.
Jaron Ruiz-Acantilado signaled the start of fireworks with his long ball, his only mark of the night triggering the Canadian flag poster in the sea of cheering fans. A Kapa‘a turnover triggered the first of two Ralston slams, adding fuel to the cheering crowd. A second followed, and a third was blocked by Kapa‘a’s Justin Faidley, who managed to grab the rebound on the play.
“This was a big game for us,” Kauhane said. “We practiced hard because it meant a possible playoff for next week. But we need to work on our transition defense. That’s where we were weak, and Kaua‘i capitalized on our mistakes. This was still a good game because everyone had opportunities — Kaua‘i took advantage of theirs.”
Faidley topped the Warrior effort on 10 points with Alaka‘i Gonsalves, Moses Ho, and Kana Gonzalez, each adding six points.
Ellsworth Doza Kaleiohi broke the double-digit wall on 10 points to lead the Red Raiders victory. Ralston and junior point guard Jim Ehia added eight points apiece, Ralston getting four of his six fourth-quarter points on the dunks.
Earlier in the night, Poki Tafea of the Kapa‘a junior varsity bucketed 13 points, and Solomone Malafu added 10 points to lead the Warrior JV to a 44-30 win over the Kaua‘i JV.
Pushing to an early lead from the tipoff, the victory completes an undefeated 8-0 season and earns the JV boys basketball crown for the Warrior JV.
Ethan Smith led the Kaua‘i JV effort on seven points with Ridge Serraon coming up with five fourth-quarter marks for the Red Raider JV.
Kaua‘i next travels to the Clem Gomes Gym Friday to face Waimea on its senior night. The junior varsity contest tips off at 5:30 p.m. followed by the varsity match.
Kapa‘a will travel to the Wilcox Gymnasium for a single match against Island School starting at 7 p.m.
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.