Chiu's 3 lifts Kalaheo to OIA D1 championship
In a classic end, it was the hot hand against the best defender.
Six-foot, one-inch Cannen Chiu drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key over 6-foot-10 Tolu Smith with two seconds left as unranked Kalaheo rallied from a 16-point halftime deficit to turn back No. 6 Kahuku, 55-53, Wednesday night to capture its league-best 19th Oahu Interscholastic Association Division I boys basketball title and 20th overall (including Division II).
"It's surreal right now," Kalaheo coach Rob Pardini said. "It's pretty amazing."
A McKinley Student Council Gymnasium crowd of about 600 watched Chiu score 16 of his team-high 21 points in the second half to help the Mustangs (20-11) stun the East top seed Red Raiders (24-4) and secure a seeded berth for the Snapple/HHSAA Division I state tournament, which starts Feb. 12 with regional play.
A 3-pointer by Kanoa Smith with 32 seconds pulled the Mustangs to 53-52. Then Kahuku turned over the ball on a player-control foul on Ruanui Winitana with 31.3 seconds. The Mustangs worked the ball down court before calling time with 12.8 seconds. When play resumed, the Mustangs worked the ball to the Chiu at the top of the key. He took a jab step to his right that freed him away from Tolu Smith for a split second, enough to hit the open three-point shot.
"He's really tall," Chiu said of Tolu Smith. "I had to work up a shot. I shot it and I thought it was going to miss, but it went in. It's unbelievable. A dream come true. Hat's off to my team. I'm proud of my boys. We're going to states now. We're not done."
Down by one, the Mustangs were trying to draw Tolu Smith away from the basket and hope for a clear lane. "But everybody crashed for a tip, but Cannen pulled through with a 3 and it rattled in."
The clock kept running and showed no time with the Mustangs charging the court. But Kahuku had called a timeout with 1.9 seconds left.
"They had the players on the court, no call," Kahuku coach Brandyn Akana said of the Mustangs.
Kahuku football quarterback Sol-Jay Maiava attempted a court-long inbounds pass toward Tolu Smith, but the ball hit the middle ceiling joist, turning over the ball to Kalaheo. The Mustangs, though, turned over the ball on the ensuing inbounds play with sixth-tenths of a second left. Maiava, from the backcourt sideline, tossed a long pass toward Tolu Smith, but Kanoa Smith intercepted it to end the game.
With the game tied at 12 after the first period, the Red Raiders opened the second quarter with an 11-0 run en route to a 32-16 halftime lead. Kahuku outscored Kalaheo, 20-4, in the second period with the Mustangs managing one field goal from Chiu.
"We talked about it at halftime," Pardini said. "We said this is going to be our half. Gotta win the third, fourth quarters. You never know how you're going to put it together, but it happened for us on the defensive end."
It was defense indeed as the Mustangs chipped away at their deficit, outscoring the Red Raiders, 16-9, in the third period, when Kahuku turned over the ball nine times which led to nine Kalaheo points.
Kahuku took a 41-32 lead into the fourth and pulled to within 47-46 on a dribble drive by Andrew Kearney with 5:21 left. But Kearney fouled out with 5:10 left when Tolu Smith scored. But Tolu Smith failed to complete the three-point play. Despite playing with foul trouble since the first half, Kearney was the only other Mustang scoring in double figures with 10 points. He also had four rebounds and two blocks in limited time.
While frustrated he had to watch the final five minutes from the bench, Kearney was still elated at the way his teammates played.
"It's going to happen," Kearney said of getting into foul trouble. "Our guys came in great. Cannen, everybody contributed. Cannen hit that clutch 3. You couldn't ask for better teammates."
Tolu Smith, who led with a game-high 22 points — 11 in each half — had six rebounds, two steals and two blocks for Kahuku. Robbie Sauvao had 10 points but all came in the first half. He had five rebounds.
Kalaheo had seven 3-pointers in the the game, six in the second half.
Akana cited officials' calls and non-calls as fueling Kalaheo's second-half momentum.
"The calls start switching and they stop calling," Akana said. "It changes the whole momentum of the game."
In the regular season, Kahuku beat Kalaheo, 57-40, in the OIA season opener on Dec. 23. The Mustangs, in fact, were 1-3 early in the season.
"This was our goal," Kearney said. "Game by game, we didn't start off so hot. We didn't let that get to us, (we'll) reach our peak later. Our work showed tonight."