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Bears capture third straight league title

Baldwin tops King Kekaulike 9-2 in MIL tourney final, aims for state breakthrough

Baldwin High School’s Gracie Lawrence lines up a fourth-quarter scoring shot as King Kekaulike’s Shaylin Ribucan defends during the Bears’ 9-2 victory in the MIL tournament championship game Saturday at Kihei Aquatic Center. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

KIHEI — The Baldwin High School girls water polo team made history last season when it finished third in the HHSAA/Stanford Carr Development state tournament.

That all-time best finish for a Maui Interscholastic League team has the Bears thinking about even more after they put the final touches on their third straight unbeaten run through the MIL on Saturday at Kihei Aquatic Center.

Baldwin bounced out to an 8-0 lead through three quarters on the way to a 9-2 win over King Kekau­like in the MIL tournament final. Baldwin will roll into the state tourney 12-0 in the MIL, 26-2 overall.

The one thing that did not go precisely to plan on Saturday was the slim 1-0 lead Baldwin held at the end of the first quarter. Only one other time this season did Baldwin lead by just 1-0 at the end of the first quarter in an MIL match — April 2 against Maui High.

“We’re definitely more of a second-quarter, third-quarter team,” Bears junior goalkeeper Savannah Dougherty said. “We like to come out strong and I think that we pulled through in the end and we always do.”

Baldwin’s Jessica Baker passes in the fourth quarter as King Kekaulike’s Taitum Jones defends Saturday. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Next on the to-do list is that state championship match breakthrough — a place the MIL has never been.

“I think we can definitely exceed to a high goal and we’re definitely going to try our best and work hard to get to the goal that we want,” Dougherty said.

Seven different Bears scored on Saturday, led by Jacsen Donohue and Jessica Baker, who each had two goals.

“I’m really excited to go to states this year,” said Donohue, a junior. “Our team is really close and connected. It’s one giant friend group. I think we’ll do really well at states together, working together, talking. We’re going to do amazing.”

Baldwin coach Sean Donohue, Jacsen’s father, is ready for the challenge of the state tournament. The Bears’ only losses this year are to perennial state powers Punahou and Kamehameha Kapalama.

The Bears’ Taryn Sato shoots. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

“We are, we’re looking to get on top of that mountain and battle that beast,” Sean Donohue said. “I think the girls have had enough of losing to Kapalama, and they know what they need to do and what they need to focus on to go in and win that game. So, it’s a matter of if we can go in and execute our game plan. We’re going to have to play a great game to beat them.”

King Kekaulike is going to the state tournament for the first time in school history.

“Honestly, I’m so happy for them, they deserve it,” Dougherty said. “They worked really hard, we’ve had some great games against them.”

Na Alii will play in the state tournament first round on April 29 at Kihei Aquatic Center against an Oahu Interscholastic Association team.

King Kekaulike coach Ryan Lehman said his team was still riding the emotion of clinching the state berth with a 3-2 win over MIL power Lahainaluna in Friday’s semifinals.

The MIL has a blue print for success from the Bears.

“(The) Baldwin team practices year-round, all the time, and they live and breathe water polo — we’re trying to bring that to King Kekaulike,” Lehman said. “Baldwin raises the level of play in the MIL. They bring it up.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com

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Baldwin 1 4 3 1–9

King Kekaulike 0 0 0 2–2

Goal scorers–Baldwin: Jacsen Donohue 2, Jessica Baker 2, Audrey Reiss, Lexi Castillo, Kristi Kimura, Gracie Lawrence, Maria King. King Kekaulike: Kalena Vaivai, Louisa Buckingham.

Third-place match

LAHAINALUNA 5, SEABURY HALL 2

Lahainaluna 2 0 1 2–5

Seabury Hall 1 0 0 1–2

Goal scorers–Lahainaluna: Dakota Delos Reyes 3, Maile Cacal, Makena Cowan. Seabury Hall: Bella Otterson 2.