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One more chance: Players hoop it up at MPA tourney

Pueo Hoops Classic featured four teams from around island, strict COVID protocols

Pueo Athletic Club’s Drew Triplett looks to pass under the basket as he is defended by Wai Hi Hoops’ Quintan Akaka during a Pueo Hoops Classic game on Feb. 6 at Maui Preparatory Academy. RAY CHIN photos

It certainly wasn’t what they imagined their senior basketball seasons would be, but Tre Rickard and Holden Ioanis both got one more chance to play organized basketball on Feb. 6 at the Bozich Center on the Maui Preparatory Academy campus.

One more chance to play with their boys, one more chance to battle Valley Isle foes, many of whom they have known since they first picked up a basketball.

The Pueo Hoops Classic tournament included four teams: Pueo Athletic Club from the home school, which won the round-robin event with a 3-0 record; Wai Hi Hoops, made up mostly of Baldwin High School players; Lahaina Boyz Basketball, made up mostly of Lahainaluna players; and Kihei Basketball, made up mostly of Maui High players.

“It was pretty good, hopefully we can have another one coming up,” said Ioanis, who joined Rickard on the Maui Interscholastic League Division I first-team All-Star list last season. “Or like one more before I graduate, before all the seniors graduate. That would be pretty fun.”

Ioanis said he felt completely safe at the day-long event that included three games for each team with 18-minute halves, running time until the final two minutes of each game.

Wai Hi Hoops’ Holden Ioanis smiles during his team’s game against Pueo Athletic Club. Pueo won 57-51 in overtime.­

“I felt safe because we were segregated,” Ioanis said. “We were always in the classroom or we were outside just playing with our teammates. It was pretty fun.”

Drew Triplett, an MPA junior, was voted MVP for the tournament. The Maui News MIL Division II Player of the Year last season scored 57 points in three games, including a tournament-high 27 in a 57-51 overtime win over Wai Hi Hoops.

Lahaina Boyz coach Nick Webb was impressed with the entire tournament that is believed to be the first organized gym sports event approved by Maui County Parks and Recreation to happen since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down sports in March 2020.

All participants who entered the Bozich Center were tested for COVID-19 prior to and after the event, and the results came back 100 percent negative on both sides.

The event was coordinated by MPA athletic director Keenan Reader, who worked to put it together for months, but did not get final county approval until just two weeks prior to the event, leaving little time for the visiting teams to practice.

Pueo’s Nathan Mokan puts up a shot in the lane against Lahaina Boyz Basketball.

“I think it went great, big props to Keenan over there at Maui Prep for putting it together,” said Webb, who is also the head coach for the Lahainaluna High School boys team. “He made it real easy with the layout going into it. Everything went as expected. Testing went by real easy. Once we were there, his staff and volunteers were on it. We had our space, he fed us, and as far as the games go, it went according to plan. Everything was clean.

“It was an impressive day. I think it can serve as a benchmark for us moving forward.”

While Ioanis wants to play college basketball, but is not sure where yet, Rickard intends to play football in college, also at a school to be determined. He leaves on Wednesday for a 7-on-7 football tournament in Las Vegas.

Rickard got to play one more day of hoops — he recruited his lifelong friend Joaquin Donez, a first-team MIL D-II All-Star last season for Seabury Hall, for the Lahaina team.

Rickard and Donez were the only seniors on the Lahaina Boyz roster.

The Pueo Athletic Club poses with their trophy after winning the tournament.

“It was pretty sick, it was good for our underclassmen, for our team, it was good for them to get their first experiences on varsity,” Rickard said.

The event was streamed live free for parents and fans, none of whom were allowed into the gym.

“It was awesome,” Rickard said. “It was kind of weird having no fans, they bring the energy. It was kind of quiet and you could hear what everybody was saying and what all the coaches were saying — that was kind of weird.”

Reader was overjoyed with the way the event went. The COVID-19 guidelines used for the event were based on the protocols from the National Federation of State High School Associations.

“Definitely a complete success to see the kids back in action, having fun, smiling, exhibiting positive sportsmanship at a time like this was pretty moving,” Reader said. “It was special.”

While MPA had an anonymous donor fund the COVID-19 testing, Reader is hopeful the event can work as a blueprint for future approval for gym sports.

MPA has a girls volleyball tournament planned for April.

The plans for the basketball tournament said any team that had a single positive test would have disqualified the team because of contact tracing protocols. Maui Prep partnered with Doctors on Call in Honokowai to offer rapid COVID-19 testing (the BD Veritor Rapid Test), although Maui County’s free testing for residents was also accepted.

When teams were not playing, they stayed in their own dedicated classroom in the gym facility or practiced on an outside court that also had specific reserved space for each team.

Teams were able to watch the other games going on from their classrooms.

“A lot of thought went into this, a lot of preparation,” Reader said. “We started back in August and it went as planned because we planned for it quite extensively and frankly had a lot of support. We did not have a lot of man on the ground that day running it, so a lot of people had to pitch in and take on multiple roles because we kept the numbers very, very low — just the essentials.”

Down to the players, everything went well. Each referee in the building did four games on the day.

“Besides a few reminders during timeouts to put a mask on, the kids all followed the rules,” Reader said. “It was honestly very smooth.”

Reader knows the event could not have happened without the county’s approval.

“I just really want to give my gratitude to Mayor (Michael) Victorino’s office for being willing to work with us,” Reader said. “We went back and forth a few times to ensure the plan was super safe for everybody and we made some slight modifications together and they were all about working with us to find a creative way to get this done for the kids.

“We went into a pretty tight, secure bubble and that’s what allowed us to put this on.”

Reader emphasized that the tournament was for all of the kids that were possible to fit in.

“We were committed to doing this for the whole community,” Reader said. “We made sure we had teams representative of the Maui population, not just private school kids. And we went through all the same channels anyone else could. I think the difference here is we had a private facility that we have a little bit more control over and that made it a little bit easier for us.”

Dr. Miguel Solis, the Maui Prep Head of School, watched the event on the free streaming of the games that the school made available.

“It was just so amazing to see the kids — not only our Maui Prep students, but other students from other schools — participating in something like this,” Solis said. “You could just feel the enthusiasm through the screen.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

*****

Pueo Hoops Classic

Feb. 6 Results

At Maui Prep

Pueo Athletic Club 57, Wai Hi Hoops 51

Lahaina Boyz Basketball 45, Kihei Basketball 15

Wai Hi Hoops 61, Kihei Basketball 30

Pueo Athletic Club 48, Lahaina Boyz Basketball 36

Pueo Athletic Club 63, Kihei Basketball 24

Wai Hi Hoops 47, Lahaina Boyz Basketball 33

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