PUKALANI - With the defending champions lurking, the King Kekaulike High School boys basketball team didn't want to take its Maui Interscholastic League opener lightly on Wednesday night.
Maui High can attest that Na Alii did no such thing.
King Kekaulike, the MIL Division I favorite in the eyes of many, rolled up a 25-point halftime lead and cruised to a 58-25 win over the young Sabers at Na Alii's gym.
King Kekaulike High School’s Chase Iwata-Bartelme goes to the hoop between Maui High’s Ryan Dalut (left) and Kalvyn Aboy during the first quarter of Na Alii’s 58-25 victory over the Sabers on Wednesday in Pukalani.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
"First game of the season, you know, it is always about the beginning, our coach says," said Chase Iwata-Bartelme, a returning first-team MIL All-Star who led King Kekaulike with 18 points, all in the first three quarters. "So, the way you start is the way you are going to finish. So we figured we would come out here and make a statement.
"I mean, I'm not saying our team is going to be the greatest like everyone is predicting, but we work hard and we are getting there."
Baldwin, the defending MIL champion, will host King Kekaulike on Friday night. Na Alii made their first trip to the state tournament in boys basketball last season as the MIL runners-up.
|GIRLS Division I|
|Lahainaluna 65, Baldwin 23|
|Maui High 52, King Kekaulike 43|
|Kamehameha Maui at Maui High, 5:30 p.m.|
|King Kekaulike at Baldwin, 5:30 p.m.|
|Seabury Hall at Molokai, 7 p.m.|
|Boys Division I|
Baldwin 52, Lahainaluna 45
King Kekaulike 58, Maui High 25
King Kekaulike at Baldwin, 7 p.m.
Kamehameha Maui at Maui High, 7 p.m.
Molokai at Seabury Hall, 7 p.m.
St. Anthony vs. Lanai at War Memorial Gym, 7 p.m.
"You know, who is ever ready for Baldwin?" Iwata-Bartelme said. "They have always got a good team. Some way, somehow, we just have to find a way to play our game."
Na Alii led 35-10 at halftime, and Gabe Gunter's putback basket turned on the 30-point mercy rule running clock with 2 minutes, 11 seconds left in the third quarter. Colton Beesley's steal and ensuing three-point play gave Na Alii their biggest lead, at 53-18, with 7:28 to play.
King Kekaulike coach Bill Naylor said his team gained valuable experience on Oahu, including a 57-50 loss to Maryknoll, the top-ranked team in the state by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Na Alii went 3-4 in the preseason, with the other three losses coming against Mainland teams.
"We learned a lot on Oahu, it seems like," Naylor said. "I think we learned a little bit about who we are supposed to be."
Iwata-Bartelme had nine rebounds on Wednesday, Jansen Agapay had nine points and five assists, Jacob Havron had six points and six rebounds, Gun-ter had five points and six rebounds and Alroy Ferreira had three points and five assists.
Na Alii finished with just seven turnovers, while forcing 15. They shot 20-for-38 from the field (52.6 percent) - after the first quarter, they were 14-for-22 (63.6 percent).
"We just wanted to come out and cut down on our mistakes, not make the mistakes, the bad passes and the silly things, just be disciplined on offense and not take bad shots," Naylor said.
Seniors Kalvyn Aboy and Keith Tecson each had six points to lead the Sabers.
"They're good, they are well-coached, the kids are versatile, they play hard," said Maui High coach Lloyd Leverett, who has a roster that includes two freshmen and four sophomores. "They take the ball strong to the basket. It is just that my kids are young. They are where King Kekaulike was a few years agoI do think King Kekaulike is the team to beat this year."
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com
MAUI HIGH (25)
Joshua Viloria 2, Nathan Daguio 0, Austin Baguyo 3, Brandon Villon 0, Kalvyn Aboy 6, Keith Tecson 6, Rayn Dalut 2, Kepa Fuentes 0, Mark Castillo 0, Marques Baclig 2, Tristan Nichols 2, Daniel Fonseca 0, Jake Frazee 2.
KING KEKAULIKE (58)
Jansen Agapay 9, Aaron Manoogan 2, Junell Alfonso 2, Chase Iwata-Bartelme 18, Trey Texeira 2, Elijah Engoring 6, Colton Beesley 3, Austin Ferreira 5, Logan Birch 0, Jordan Mauliola 0, Jacob Havron 6, Gabe Gunter 5, Kai Vares 0.