Bears reach MIL tournament final

OLINDA – Baldwin High School boys volleyball coach Kalei Houpo feels his team finally played up to its full potential Thursday night in the semifinal round of the Maui Interscholastic League Division I tournament.

It’s tough to argue with him.

Ryan Garces had 12 kills and Kelii Kaiama finished with 27 assists as the Bears beat Kamehameha Maui 25-17, 25-19, 25-10 at Erdman Athletic Center, sewing up a spot in the state tournament.

“That was the best game we played the whole season,” Houpo said. “I was waiting for these kids to play like this from the begin-ning of the season and they finally got there.”

Baldwin (8-4) will face regular-season champion King Kekaulike for the tournament championship today. Na Alii defeated Maui High 25-18, 19-25, 24-26, 25-17 in the day’s first semifinal.

If King Kekaulike wins today, it will receive the league’s top seed. If Baldwin wins, the teams will play again Saturday with the overall title at stake.

“We just got to keep playing like how we were playing tonight,” Kaiama said. “We can beat them. We can take the MIL title again.”

The Bears won a pair of five-set matches against the Warriors earlier this season.

“It got under their skin being in that position this late in the season,” Kamehameha coach Jason Sadang said of his young team, which finished 6-7. “It was a good learning experience for them.”

Garces, a left-hander, had most of his kills on the left side.

“I feel more comfortable because my left hand is on the net side when I hit, so I can get the extreme angle on the line,” he said.

In the first set, Garces had seven kills without an error, and the Bears pulled away from a 9-9 tie.

Baldwin went on a 6-1 run for a 15-8 advantage in the second set and it jumped out to a 15-3 lead in the third.

“It’s good that we came together at this point in time because during the season we had our struggles here and there,” Garces said. “We couldn’t get one thing together with another, but it looks like we’re coming together pretty good.”

Niko Corpin had eight kills and three aces for the Bears. Trent Helle finished with six kills without an error, and got his hands on numerous Kamehameha attacks.

“Trent has been with me for four years, so he knows what I expect from him,” Houpo said.

Keawe Rindlisbacher had six kills for Kamehameha, and Walter Keao finished with three aces.

In the first match, Colton Cowell had 19 kills and 17 assists for Na Alii (12-1), and Lionel Mills added 13 kills and 18 assists.

The Sabers fell to 6-8.

* Kyle Sakamoto is at