Lunas secure state berth
PUKALANI – It was far from elegant, but it delivered the Lahainaluna High School boys basketball team to the dance it cares about most.
The Lunas clinched a state tournament berth with a workmanlike 40-28 win over Maui High in the semifinals of the Maui Interscholastic League Division I tournament Thursday night at Kaulaheanuiokamoku Gym.
Junior forward Cyrus Kama had 12 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots to lead the way.
“We had a lot of pressure coming into the game,” Kama said. “I was thinking about it all day, me and my team. From the start of the season we always said that we wanted to go to the states.”
Lahainaluna (8-5) earned a berth in the MIL D-I tournament final tonight against regular-season champion Baldwin, which can clinch the league title with a win.
The Lunas clamped down on defense all night long. They outscored the Sabers 7-0 in the second quarter to take a 20-8 halftime lead and upped it to 32-15 at the end of the third. Kama’s breakaway gave Lahainaluna its largest lead at 34-15 with 7 minutes, 37 seconds to play.
Kama outbattled Maui High’s Tristan Nichols – both are listed at 6-foot-4 – all night. Nichols didn’t score until his 3-pointer in the final 10 seconds accounted for the final score.
The last time the teams met, on Jan. 30, Nichols had 14 points, and his putback shot at the overtime buzzer gave the Sabers a 62-60 win.
“Coach just said, ‘Do what you do best,’ and we just said, ‘All right,’ ” Kama said. “All we did was talk and that’s how we came out on top tonight. At first I was really nervous, going into the game my stomach was going off, but I came out and got the first four points and was fine.”
The Sabers (6-7) won two of the first three meetings with the Lunas, but lost the one they had to have to keep their season alive. Maui High had nine different players battling the flu this week, coach Lloyd Leverett said.
“I never, ever thought we would shoot like that,” Leverett said. “I don’t think we have had a game where we have shot that bad all year – that’s the worst. The Lunas are tough on D, but that being said, we missed every shot.”
Lahainaluna, the only team in the league with a victory over Baldwin this season, has won eight of its last 11 games.
“When we first started 0-2, everybody was looking at us saying, ‘Where’s Lahaina? Where’s Lahaina?’ ” said Lunas coach John Dudley. “And we just stuck together. I have got the hardest working kids out here, they never say die. I know that’s such a cliche, but they never say die. After our first two games we said to ourselves, ‘We are still going to make an impact on this league.’ “
Dudley added, “Cyrus came out and showed some great leadership, Marvin (Sidon, the Lunas’ point guard) played probably one of his best games – he didn’t turn the ball over.”
Dudley also singled out two players who don’t usually see much playing time.
“The biggest thing tonight was the minutes for some guys who work every day, they work hard and they got their chance,” Dudley said. “Kala (Cabon) came in and scored four points, and Brandon Agapay, he’s a senior, came in, played tough D, and hit a huge 3 for us.
“When guys like that come off the bench, they come out and perform like that, a coach can’t ask for anything more than that.”
With a victory tonight, Lahainaluna can force a winner-take-all playoff game for the MIL title on Saturday.
“Baldwin’s tough, they are a top-10 team,” Dudley said. “I think if we are patient enough and do the things that we do well, who knows?”
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org
LAHAINALUNA 40, MAUI HIGH 28
MAUI HIGH (28)
Joshua Viloria 3, A.J. Baguyo 0, Ginel Mateo 7, B.J. Villon 0, Denzell Quines 9, Jomar Dela Cruz 0, Nathan Daguio 0, Kainalu Rundle 4, Tristan Nichols 3, Daniel Fonseca 2, Marques Baclig 0, Justin Dancel 0.
Nick Vierra 0, Marvin Sidon 4, Brandon Agapay 3, Kala Cabon 4, Josh Chapital 7, Peni Taufa 4, Cyrus Kama 12, Ryan Madera 6.