Kahuku knocks off defending champ Iolani in OT, 51-48

Kahuku's Samuta Avea puts up a tough shot in the lane against Iolani's Hugh Hogland in the first half of a Division I semifinal. CJ Caraang | SL

KAKAAKO — Dan Fotu scored six points in overtime to help top-ranked Kahuku to a 51-48 win over defending champion Iolani in the semifinals of the Snapple/HHSAA Division I Boys Basketball State Championships at McKinley's Student Council Gymnasium Thursday night.

The Red Raiders improved to 16-0 on the season and advanced to Friday's state final, where they will play second-seeded Punahou at 7 p.m. at the Stan Sheriff Center.

Point guard Jessiya Villa scored 12 of his game-high 16 points after halftime, while forward Samuta Avea had nine of his 12 points in the first half and grabbed a team-high nine rebounds to lead Kahuku, which improved to 4-7 all-time in the semifinal round of the state tournament.

"It feels wonderful," said Villa, who transferred from West Virginia for his senior season. "For this team and even me personally, we've struggled getting past the first round and the semis, so this year I felt was a different year for us. We worked hard for this and we were able to come out and close out."

The Red Raiders led by as many as 14 points near the midpoint of the third quarter, but saw that lead diminish to 32-25 by the start of the fourth.

Iolani capped a 13-3 run with Hugh Hogland's bucket to pull even at 35 with 3:18 remaining in the game.

Justin Genovia's fast break layup tied it at 39 with 1:33 left before Villa put Kahuku back ahead with his free throw on Kahuku's ensuing possession. However, Genovia answered with the tying-free throw to knot it up with 49 seconds to play.

Each team had one final possession in regulation, but neither managed to get a shot off and turned it over to send the teams into overtime.

"At that point coach just told us to stick it out, stay together and keep our composure," Villa said. "In the heat of the game we know how lethal it can to be to lose a lead, but just sticking together and relying on our hard work and Heavenly Father, we were able to overcome that."

After struggling with foul trouble for most of the night, Fotu came to life down the stretch. He had two first-half fouls and had four before picking up his points on a inside bucket with 2:24 left in the fourth quarter.

"We just told Dan to just play," Kahuku coach Brandyn Akana said. "The refs got into him, he was out all game, but towards the end he got three steals in a row and that's huge. That's what we work on, is getting stops on those times that we need to get stops, and we did it. That's heart; That's how we won."

Fotu scored Kahuku's first six points in the extra period. His runner in the lane gave his team a 46-42 lead with 1:42 to play.

A Genovia free throw made it a one-possession game at 46-43 with 1:09 remaining, but the Red Raiders scored on their final three possessions to pull it out.

"I knew defensively we were going to be fine," Akana said. "I said, ‘Hey, we're going to get stops. It's going to be a defensive game and if we can get our stops, we'll win,' and sure enough we got our stops when we needed to. This is the type of team this is. Everybody thinks we're an offensive team, but actually we're a very good defensive team when we lock them up."

The Red Raiders used a collective effort to limit Iolani big man Hugh Hogland to 14 points on 7-of-13 shooting. Hogland, a 6-foot-9 senior center and the reigning All-Hawaii Player of the Year, had just two points in the first half. He finished with 11 rebounds and seven blocks.

"We did as much as we could. Hogland is a wonderful player, a wonderful big, so I thought we gave a great team effort on Hugh and defended him well," Villa said. "He got his points, but that's a given. I think Dan did a great job. Taimona (Wright) did a wonderful job, so just their contributions defensively on Hugh helped us a lot as well."

With Fotu relegated to the bench for much of regulation — he had just nine minutes of court time before overtime — Wright, a 6-foot-4 forward, drew the defensive assignment on Hogland more often than not.

Role players Wright (four points, seven rebounds), Kesi Ah-Hoy (seven points, seven rebounds) and Codie Sauvao (four points, three rebounds, two steals, one block) also made notable contributions for Kahuku.

"It's always been that way," Akana said. "Everybody thinks it's just a couple guys here and there, but it's everything and that's how they've been all year. Those guys don't get the credit like everybody else with the points and stuff, but they do stuff that don't show on the stats and they were big time tonight. When one guy is struggling, the next guy picks it up and that's what makes them a really good team."

Genovia scored 10 of his 14 points after halftime for the Raiders, who turned it over 19 times — 12 in the first half — and shot 40.5 percent (17 of 42) for the game.

Kahuku shot 34.8 percent (16 of 46) from the field. It held a 17-9 lead at halftime.

Iolani was held to two points in the second quarter.

The Raiders (13-5) were trying for their fourth straight state finals appearance. They are now 15-5 all-time in state semifinal games.

The game was a rematch of the 2005 championship game. Iolani defeated Kahuku, 62-51, in that game.

Kahuku will play for its fourth state basketball crown and first in more than 40 years. All three of its titles came in a four-year span from 1971-74 in the Division-A tournament. It is 0-3 all-time in state finals in the Division-I era.


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