Lunas clinch state spot with 52-44 victory over Sabers
WAILUKU — Malino Jacinto knew it was a key time in a key game.
The Lahainaluna High School senior scored seven straight points, part of a streak where he poured in nine of his team’s 10, to lead the Lunas back from a deficit and to a lead they would not relinquish in a 52-44 win over Maui High on Monday night at the Jon Garcia Gym.
The game was a semifinal in the Maui Interscholastic League Division I tournament, and the result thrusts the Lunas (10-3) into the state tournament for the seventh straight year and into tonight’s tournament final against Baldwin (11-2), which earlier eliminated Kamehameha Maui.
If the Lunas win tonight, they force a winner-take-all playoff game Wednesday for the league title. If the Bears win, they clinch their first MIL championship since 2014.
“That was very important for us,” Jacinto said of his run in the first quarter that led him to a game-high 16 points. “If we didn’t have that, I think we’d still be kind of down in that first quarter. My mentality going into that was just to kind of push the ball. Keep pushing it, get my teammates open, get open looks for them.”
Maui High bounced out to an 11-2 lead in the first 3 1/2 minutes, a run capped by a three-point play by Kobin Harris with 4:29 left in the first quarter.
The Lunas answered by finishing the quarter on a 13-0 run, nine of which were scored by Jacinto. Little-used Joshua Tihada nailed a 3-pointer from the corner to cap the run at the buzzer.
The run reached 15-0 on a drive to the hoop by Tre Rickard early in the second quarter. Two free throws by J.R. Villon stopped the run and brought the Sabers within 17-13 with 6:21 left in the first half.
“Maui High, they played hard, they knew that if we won their season was over, so they were trying not to lose,” Rickard said after scoring 10 points. “They played hard.”
After trailing by seven at halftime, Maui High’s Jerome Butac sank a pair of free throws with 6:17 left in the third quarter to bring the Sabers within 28-24.
Lahainaluna’s Matthew Rabino answered with a 3-pointer on the other end, and then Rabino banked in a shot from the low post to make it 33-24 with 5:00 left in the third quarter.
Rickard’s corner 3 gave the Lunas a 42-30 lead with just over a minute to go in the quarter, which ended 44-32.
The Sabers closed within 46-40 with 2:57 to play on a three-point play by Butac, and 47-41 on a free throw by Harris with 2:00 to go.
Harris sank one more free throw with 48 seconds left to make it 47-42, but the Sabers would not get any closer.
“It’s a big win for the program,” Lahainaluna coach Nick Webb said. “Our first year here as a coaching staff, but it’s just been the hard work here that the boys have put in. There’s been a lot of hard work here behind the scenes with everything and I’m sure proud of the boys.
“This is the playoffs — we expected Maui High to give us everything they had and they did.”
Maui High’s season is over — the Sabers said goodbye to seniors Harris, Logan Nagamine and Villon, who played for the first time in five games because of injury.
Butac led the Sabers with 14 points.
“They played as hard as they could,” Maui High coach Steven Vega said. “I’m proud of them. I take full responsibility for the game tonight. I think it’s a lesson on things happen that we can’t control, but they played hard and that’s the thing that I’m proud of.”
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com.
MAUI HIGH (44)
Logan Nagamine 4, Jeremy Peros 3, Efren “J.R.” Villon 10, Charlles Guansing 2, Joshua Tolentino 0, Jerome Butac 14, Christian Alejo 6, Kobin Harris 5, Fidel Ortiz 0.
Tre Rickard 10, Juztin Gaoiran 4, Malino Jacinto 16, Levi Basturo 3, Josh Tihada 3, Matthew Rabino 9, T.J. Galoia 7, Sam Fifita 0.
Maui High 11 8 13 12–44
Lahainaluna 15 11 18 8–52
BALDWIN 63, KAMEHAMEHA MAUI 43
KAMEHAMEHA MAUI (43)
Logan Rickard 0, Jaxon Mossman-Smith 4, Pookela Aiu 3, Alec Tolentino 0, Steven Gushiken 4, Brevin Carillo 0, Marco Kahoohanohano 14, Kale Spencer 12, Tiliti Adams 6, Michael Kalalau 0.
Jerren Manarpaac 2, Kobe Gonsalves 2, Owen Nakamura 0, Laa Ponce 1, Holden Ioanis 10, Isaiah Richards 15, Avery Pauole 2, Kuikawa Ross 12, Quintan Akaka 13, Laakea Asuega-Stark 0, Hudson Yarbrough 5, Caleb-Noah Badayos-Buetzer 1, Angel Moreno 0.
KS Maui 10 8 11 14–43
Baldwin 16 8 26 13–63
MIL D-I Tournament
Baldwin 63, Kamehameha Maui 43
Lahainaluna 52, Maui High 44
Baldwin vs. Lahainaluna, 7 p.m.
Overall championship, if necessary: Lahainaluna vs. Baldwin, 7 p.m.