Bears topple Lunas in semis, earn state berth
LAHAINA – The Baldwin High School boys basketball team had two goals on Thursday night at the Lahaina Civic Center.
The Bears got both done with a 43-30 win over Lahainaluna behind a game-high 16 points from junior forward Teva Eldridge.
Baldwin (10-3) clinched a state tournament berth with the victory in the semifinals of the Maui Interscholastic League Division I tournament in front of about 500 fans.
Eldridge was big when it mattered most against the Lunas (5-8).
He scored seven of the Bears’ nine points in the second quarter when they opened a 15-10 halftime lead and then was 6-for-6 at the free-throw line over the final 4 1/2 minutes to seal the victory.
“I was a little bit motivated, we had to earn our spot into the states,” Eldridge said.
In the next breath, he got to the second goal – another shot at unbeaten regular-season champion King Kekaulike (13-0), a 41-28 winner over Kamehameha Maui in the first semifinal of the night.
The Bears and Na Alii will meet tonight at 7 for the MIL tournament title at the LCC – both have clinched state berths.
A King Kekaulike win clinches the school’s first-ever league title in boys basketball, while a win for the defending champion Bears would force a winner-take-all game for the overall league crown on Saturday.
“Losing three in a row to King K, that really made us motivated for this game,” Eldridge said. “It’s good, we got one obstacle out of our sight and now we have got to concentrate on beating King K for the MIL title.”
Eldridge has often struggled at the free-throw line, but he was 8-for-9 on Thursday. His pair with 4 minutes, 33 seconds to play gave the Bears a 35-26 lead. With 2:37 left, he boosted the lead to 37-26 with two more makes. He put the finishing touches on his night with a pair at the 1:13 mark to give Baldwin a 39-28 lead.
“I struggled at the beginning of the season, but I have been working on it in practice for these kind of moments right now,” Eldridge said.
The first half was a defensive struggle as Baldwin shot 6-for-23 and Lahainaluna was 3-for-16.
“We played pretty good defense,” Baldwin coach Wayne Gushiken said. “We had a few holes here and there, but we managed to plug them up in the second half.”
Baldwin shot 9-for-15 in the second half, mostly on drives to the basket that ended with points for either Eldridge or Bradley Bowlin, who finished with 10 points.
“Not only the points, but Teva’s rebounding he was getting on the defensive end, too,” Gushiken said. “He played a really, really good game.”
Gushiken said his team has one goal down and another directly in its sights.
“It feels good, one of our goals was to make it to state,” he said. “We did that tonight and our other goal, the big goal is to win the MIL, which right now is still in our reach.”
Lahainaluna coach John Dudley lamented early missed shots from point-blank range. Senior guard Emil Cariaga led the Lunas with 14 points – his 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer was Lahainaluna’s only points in the second quarter.
“We are both young, we wanted to slow it down a little tonight,” Dudley said. “It was working and we missed a lot of lay-ups in the first half that I think would have made a difference. But, you know, that’s the way it goes. You have a game plan and you follow it and we get the shots we want, but we couldn’t get them down. It’s a good learning experience for us and we’ll be back.”
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org
Nick Vierra 0, Emil Cariaga 14, Marvin Sidon 0, Joshua Corpuz 2, Jake Francis 6, Manny Brands 2, Josh Chapital 2, Ryan Madera 4.
Kody Takushi 5, Jacob Valle 2, Jeremiah Badillo 5, Ryan Garces 5, Philip Thomas 0, Bradley Bowlin 10, Teva Eldridge 16.[TABULATED_DATA]