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Newcomers propel Kahuku past Mt. Vernon, 60-54

Kahuku's Jessiya Villa, an out-of-state transfer, tries to dribble around the Mount Vernon defense. Pete Caldwell | SL

Newcomers made their presence felt in Kahuku's 60-56 come-from-behind win against Mount Vernon (NY) in the second day of the opening round of the Iolani Classic at Iolani Gymnasium.

Jessiya Villa scored a game-high 27 points and Daniel Fotu added 12 points in less than 16 minutes of play to help the Red Raiders advance to Monday's quarterfinals against De La Salle (Concord, Calif.) at 8 p.m. Both are out-of-state transfers; Villa played for Martinsburg (W. Va.) in last year's Classic and Fotu arrived here a week ago Saturday from New Zealand.

With Kahuku's win, along with Iolani's and Kailua's from Friday, there will be three Hawaii teams in the quarterfinals for the first time since 1997, when Iolani, Kamehameha and Moanalua advanced. Five did so in 1995.

"Today, we played great team basketball and we were able to come out with a victory," said the 6-foot senior guard Villa.

Fotu's putback dunk off of a missed shot by Villa tied the game at 54 with 1:36 left. Fotu was fouled on the play and hit his free throw to put the Red Raiders ahead. Villa hit 5 of 6 free throws in the final 33 seconds to seal the game.

"That's what we need, a guy who can do dirty work like that," Villa said of Fotu's putback. "We're very thankful for that."

The Knights led by nine early in the fourth period after trailing 34-32 at the half. Mount Vernon had an 8-0 run in which four field goals were scored off Kahuku turnovers. A 3-pointer by Justin Currie with 27 seconds left in the period expanded the Knights lead, 47-43. They made it 52-43 to start the fourth before Kahuku used a 9-0 run to tie the game at 52 with 2:56 left.

Demetre Roberts' baseline layup with 2:35 put the Knights up 54-52, but they would not score the rest of the way.

On Villa's dunk, he was setting up a screen for Villa and just reacted.

"I was just watching (the shot) and I just ran up and tried to get the rebound and I was lucky," said Fotu, younger brother of former University of Hawaii basketball player Isaac Fotu, who plays professionally in Spain. "The crowd was going crazy. I just felt like they were behind me."

Since he joined the team late, Fotu did not start.

"Yes, I was (surprised)," Kahuku coach Brandyn Akana said of Fotu's performance. "To pick up quickly and how he did (well) so easily."

Kahuku took a 12-8 lead into the second quarter, only to see the Knights eventually take the lead on two occasions, the second after an 8-0 run pulled them ahead, 23-16. They went up by as much as 29-19, only to see the Red Raiders us a 15-0 run in less than a 2:30 span before the Knights got a 3-pointer by Justin Currie just before the half to pull Mount Vernon to within 34-32.

"They were tough," Mount Vernon coach Bob Cimmino said. "We had a couple of runs, they answered them right back. They had a good inside game, good outside game. They took care of the ball. We pride ourselves on being fast, didn't affect them at all."

Hawaii signee Samuta Avea, a 6-6 swingman, led Kahuku with 10 rebounds.

Jason Douglas-Stanley led Mount Vernon with 20 points, including four 3-pointers. Noah Morgan added 15 points with three 3-pointers.

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