They met only once in their senior seasons, but have no doubt - Baldwin High School's Gabe Ross and Seabury Hall's Shane Jacob know all about each other.
The pair of point guards led their teams to Maui Interscholastic League boys basketball titles and final-four appearances in state tournaments. For their efforts, both were voted The Maui News MIL Players of the Year unanimously by the coaches in their divisions.
Ross, the latest in a line of impressive Baldwin guards, helped the Bears to third place in the Division I state tournament, matching their best finish ever. The only real damper on a 26-4 season was a loss to No. 1 seed and eventual state champion Punahou, snapping an 18-game winning streak and dropping Baldwin to 0-11 in state semifinals.
Baldwin’s Gabe Ross
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
The individual award was a surprise for the 5-foot-11 playmaker, who averaged 16.0 points per game.
"It is just nothing I really ever thought of doing, I guess it came with hard work," Ross said after volleyball practice Monday. "The last time we won the MIL championship was my freshman year and that was always my goal, to have my senior year be just as good or if not better than it was my freshman year. I had a lot of fun this year."
Ross, who is considering McDaniels College in Maryland and Concordia in Oregon to continue his career, is joined on the MIL Division I first team by Baldwin center Pasoni Tasini and forward Teva Eldridge, and King Kekaulike guard Jansen Agapay and forward Chase Iwata-Bartelme. www.mauinews.com/administration/index.cfm?fuseaction=news.add
Baldwin coach Wayne Gushiken was the choice of his peers as MIL Coach of the Year, nudging out King Kekaulike coach Bill Naylor, who led Na Alii to the state tournament for the first time in school history.
"This year he really dedicated himself, especially in the offseason and the preseason," Gushiken said of Ross. "To the point where during our offseason running program, he was running two miles in 13 minutes. I don't know how many other basketball players can do that."
Ross moved to Maui from the Oakland, Calif., area before enrolling at Baldwin as a freshman and remembers playing against Jacob.
"My freshman year, we always used to go at it in (junior varsity)," Ross said. "That is the person I always wanted to face when we played each other. I am happy for him that he got to win (the MIL Division II award). He is really good, he has nice ballhandling, and he has got a good shot. He is automatic, actually, from, like, all his jumpers."
Jacob was the Spartans' top scorer, averaging 18.9 points per game. He also led the team in assists and was second in steals, rebounds and blocks in a 9-2 season.
"I'd actually say that his jump shot is better than mine," said Ross, who outscored Jacob 14-6 in a 49-41 victory for
the Bears in a preseason game. "But, yeah, our games are pretty similar. We both like the ball in our hands and we like to control the game."
Both players came up big down the stretch. Ross scored 17 points, including two clinching free throws in the final seconds, of a 43-41 win over King Kekaulike at Na Alii's gym that clinched the MIL crown. Jacob scored career highs of 23, 24 and 25 points in the final three games of the Spartans' MIL campaign.
"I like it a lot, I just like taking on all the pressure that comes with the final minutes of the game," Ross said. "As a leader it was something I felt like I should do."
Jacob is joined on the D-II first team by Seabury's Rocky DeLyon, Molokai's David Rapanot and Hauoli Falealii, and Lanai's Michael Domiquel.
Seabury's Louis Turbeville is the D-II Coach of the Year.
Jacob noted the key contributions the Spartans got from DeLyon, a volleyball standout, 2010 MIL golf champion Alex Chiarella and Steven Shoemaker, who played basketball for the first time since 2009.
"It feels good, but it really was a team effort on all fronts," Jacob said Tuesday in the parking lot of the Erdman Athletic Center before leaving for a volleyball match at Hana. "We had a lot of seniors come in this year from various sports and it added to our team."
Jacob said the No. 1 college on his list is Pacific Lutheran, where he hopes to continue his basketball career. If he keeps playing, he will do so with memories of going head-to-head with Ross.
"I have a whole lot of respect for Gabe Ross," Jacob said. "Gabe Ross is a nightmare to match up with. I have never played against a better defender in the MIL than Gabe Ross. His tenacious defense and his quickness on his feet, he is extremely hard to score against. His ability to drive to the basket and finish is extremely hard for a player to defend.
"It is not just that he is an amazing scorer and defender, but he is also a leader. He made Baldwin better."
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com