Baldwin wins MIL D-I crown
PUKALANI – His coach says Phillip Thomas can fill it up in practice, but Baldwin High School’s 6-foot-2 junior forward said he has never felt quite like he did on Friday night at Kaulaheanuiokamoku Gym.
“I was in a zone,” Thomas said after scoring 22 points, including five 3-pointers, to lead the Bears to a 46-39 win over Lahainaluna in the Maui Interscholastic League Division I tournament championship game. “I felt, ‘Just shoot the ball,’ that’s what coach says. I have never been in a zone like that, especially not in a championship game.”
With the MIL title secure, Baldwin (13-1) can set its eyes on next week’s state tournament.
“We’re looking at the top,” said Bears coach Wayne Gushiken. “We always do that, but this year especially I think we have enough talent to go all the way. Hopefully it pans out.”
While Thomas scored 11 points in the second quarter to help Baldwin go into the halftime break trailing just 24-22, it was the Bears’ defense in the second half that helped them take the lead and keep it.
“Coach just told us to be aggressive, swing the ball and be aggressive on defense,” Thomas said.
Teva Eldridge, a first-team MIL All-Star last season, added 14 points, mostly from close range, but he knew his team had to keep feeding Thomas.
“He was on fire,” Eldridge said. “When you’re on fire like that, you know it. We just tried our best to hit him when he was open.”
Gushiken said of Thomas: “He was really red-hot, he’s like that at practice all the time. He can do that every game if he wants.”
Thomas added nine more points in the third quarter when Baldwin allowed just two – on Josh Chapital’s jumper with 10 seconds remaining in the period. Thomas’ 3-pointer at the buzzer gave the Bears a 35-26 lead and the Lunas (8-6) would get no closer than six the rest of the way.
“Actually we had to change our defense because we were in foul trouble – it kind of threw them off,” Gushiken said. “We went to a matchup zone and a part-time man.”
Gushiken said that battles with the Lunas, the only MIL team to beat the Bears, will help Baldwin be prepared for the state tournament.
“The league was so competitive, it was really good for us and for Lahaina,” he said.
The Lunas scored just four points in the first 14 minutes of the second half.
“We played a little tentative in the second half,” Lahainaluna coach John Dudley said. “Baldwin’s defense, they play good defense. We have to get over the mountain of being intimidated by that sort of stuff.”
In the end, the Lunas had no answer for Thomas.
“Phillip came out on fire. I don’t know how much he had, but that’s what hurt us tonight,” Dudley said.
The Lunas, who clinched a state berth with a semifinal win over Maui High on Thursday, have just three seniors.
“I’m extremely happy,” Dudley said. “We’re young, most everybody is coming back. We will get bigger and stronger with our offseason stuff. I’m really, really proud of these kids. We’re going to states and maybe we can surprise some people over there.”
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com
Nick Vierra 0, Marvin Sidon 4, Brandon Agapay 0, Joshua Corpuz 0, Josh Chapital 10, Peni Taufa 10, Cyrus Kama 9, Ryan Madera 6.
Kody Takushi 2, Taje Akaka-Foster 0, Jeremiah Badillo 5, Niko Corpin 1, Ryan Garces 2, Sam Balantac 0, Phillip Thomas 22, Teva Eldridge 14, Josiah Maglente-Tonu 0.