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Kahuku survives inspired Kailua squad

Dan Fotu scored 15 points and Samuta Avea tallied 14 as No. 1-ranked Kahuku escaped with a 42-40 win over No. 8 Kailua in the OIA boys basketball Division I semifinals at McKinley Student Council Gymnasium.

Kahuku played without starting point guard Jessiya Villa, who suffered a concussion during practice last week. Coach Brandyn Akana said Villa was cleared to play, but he chose to sit his nephew for one more day. It was a tough call, especially with the top seed from the East trailing almost the entire way until the final 3:11.

“We kind of couldn’t get into our rhythm without our point guard, but our guys grinded it out,” Akana said. “That’s what we do at practice every day. At the end, we got big stops on defense. We just had to remind them that we’ll have our opportunities.”

Kailua, Akana added, drew up the best game plan he’s seen against the unbeaten Red Raiders (22-3, 13-0 OIA).

“Six minutes left, we had the lead, we spread the floor, we had the bonus and we missed free throws,” Kailua coach Walter Marciel said. “Samuta hits a big 3 and we miss a layup. Our goal was to keep them under 40 points. It’s a tough loss.”

Everett Torres-Kahapea scored 15 points and Zachary Marrotte had 14 for Kailua (18-9, 10-4 OIA). Center Christian Mejia finished with two points and nine rebounds.

Fotu, a 6-foot-7 junior, pulled down 10 rebounds and Avea grabbed six. Kahuku had a slight edge on the boards, 24-21, but 13 of those caroms came off the offensive glass. Five of those offensive boards were by Fotu.

Without Villa, Kahuku needed every ounce of defense to rally past its East rivals. Kailua fell behind for about one minute in the first quarter and for just a few seconds in the second quarter. The Surfriders opened the lead to 37-31 on two free throws by Torres-Kahapea and a driving layup by Marrotte with five minutes remaining.

Avea answered with two free throws and a 22-footer from the top to bring the Red Raiders within one point, and his dish to Codie Sauvao on a fast break gave Kahuku a 38-37 lead with 3:11 remaining.

Kailua tied the game on a free throw by Aaron Mejia with 2:15 to go but never regained the lead again.

Avea, a 6-6 swingman who has signed with Hawaii, drove for a tough bucket in traffic for a 40-38 lead with 1:44 left, and after Fotu blocked a shot in the paint by Jonah Kalai, Avea sank a foul shot for a three-point lead with 30.7 seconds to go.

The Surfriders had chances to tie the score, but Mejia missed a 22-footer straightaway. Torres-Kahapea rebounded and made two free throws with 5.7 ticks left, cutting the lead to 41-40.

Kailua never got the ball back. Mark Viloria missed the front of a 1-and-1 with 3.9 seconds left, but Kesi Ah-Hoy grabbed the offensive board. He made the first of a 1-and-1 with 2.1 seconds left for a two-point lead. He missed the second shot, but Sauvao hustled for the rebound and time expired.

Sauvao put in a lot of work, particularly in the second half. After Torres-Kahapea drained three treys to help Kailua take a 20-18 lead early in the third quarter, Sauvao was assigned to cover the sharpshooter. Torres-Kahapea didn’t register another field-goal attempt the rest of the night.

“Codie likes it. He and Kesi always want the challenge on defense,” Akana said. “Codie stepped up.”

The loss snapped Kailua’s six-game win streak. When Kailua and Kahuku met on Dec. 28, Kahuku won 53-37.

No. 6 Kapolei 68, Moanalua 64

Isiah Higa blocked a 3-point shot by Moanalua that would have tied the game in the final seconds, and Zoar Nedd sealed the win with a free throw at 1.9 seconds to go as the Hurricanes withstood a major rally.

Higa’s steal and corner 3 gave Kapolei its largest lead, 62-49, with 4:25 remaining. That’s when Caleb Casinas caught fire. The Moanalua sharpshooter, who had seven treys in an upset win at Kalaheo in the quarterfinal round, drilled a string of 3-pointers, including a corner 3 with 14.9 seconds left to bring Na Menehune within 66-64.

Higa connected on a free throw with 10 seconds left to stretch the lead to three points, then hustled downcourt to partially block a 3-point try by Moanalua.

“That was the play of the game. That was huge,” Kapolei coach Gary Ellison said. “Give it up to Moanalua. They have improved so much since preseason. Coach (Byron) Mello and his team deserve a lot of credit.”

Kapolei, the top seed from the OIA West, will meet the state’s No. 1 team, Kahuku, in the Division I championship game on Thursday.

“I’ll worry about that when I get home and look at the video,” Ellison said.

Higa led the ’Canes with 14 points. Ja’Shon Carter tallied 13, and Jayson Manapul and Nedd added 12 each.

Leilehua 52, Aiea 50

Liam Fitzgerald had 20 points, leading the Bulldogs past Na Alii.

Keyson Goins had 21 points to lead Aiea.

Kalaheo 62, McKinley 44

Noah Woodby had a game-high 22 points, leading the Mustangs past the Tigers.

Captain Whitlock added 13 points for Kalaheo. Kevin Kim led McKinley with 13 points.

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