Red Raiders capture eighth straight OIA crown

Kahuku's Grace Rittenhouse (14), Izzy Walker (10) and Makenna Beck (8) embrace after defeating Roosevelt in double OT in the OIA championship game Saturday afternoon. Michael Lasquero | SL

WAIPIO — With high stakes come high reward.

After two days of post-season play, the Roosevelt Rough Riders put their unbeaten record up against the seven-time defending league champion Kahuku Red Raiders in Saturday afternoon's Oahu Interscholastic Association Championship Game.

In a rematch from a year ago, spectators at the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center at Central Oahu Regional Park were rewarded with a double overtime classic to determine the OIA's 15th champion since play began in 2004.

In the end, it took until the final ticks of extended play for the North Shore girls to emerge victorious on Kayla Grigsby's game-winning shot from the left wing in a 9-8 showdown to claim Kahuku's eighth OIA Championship in a row and No. 14 in school history.

One week prior, it was Roosevelt who was riding high after beating the Red Raiders, 7-6, in the regular season finale, but both teams had a feeling a rematch in the OIA Playoffs would be inevitable.

"We were just mentally not prepared," Grigsby said of their loss to the Rough Riders. "All of the other teams were just hard to compare to Roosevelt because they're a little better."

"They have fast swimmers and we've been doing a lot of conditioning so we would be strong enough to push through it," Grace Rittenhouse said, a junior who scored two goals in the loss.

Roosevelt's speed proved emphatic as Taylor Brooks and Sarah Yasuda won every swim-off to start each period on the attacking offense.

The first half saw each of the teams' three points coming deep within enemy territory, but the Red Raiders opted to take a longer approach in the second half.

"We just needed to get some goals. We have girls who can shoot from the outside," Rittenhouse said, who scored the team's seventh point in the fourth quarter. "We kind of panicked, honestly, but it worked."

Kahuku led, 7-5, with over three and half minutes left in regulation, but April Gomes' penalty shot cut into the deficit before Brooks' second goal of the game sent the match into overtime.

Both teams returned empty after the first three-minute period of extended time.

Just 10 seconds into the second extra period, the Rough Riders gained a man up advantage on Hannah Smith's ejection. Gomes netted her fifth goal to give Roosevelt the lead.

Smith responded on the ensuing possession with a score of her own from inside two meters to tie it up again.

Coming out of a timeout with 30 seconds left, Roosevelt goalkeeper Rei Yamamoto came up short on an errant pass intended for Gomes, allowing Kahuku's Makenna Beck to snatch the freebie.

With the clock winding down and in another man up situation, the Red Raiders took a 20-second timeout to set up Grigsby's championship-winning score.

"The anxiety going through my body was next level," Rittenhouse said of the leadup to the shot.

"[Grigsby] was on the five and I'm like, ‘You need to go to the one,' because she has an amazing shot from that position," Rittenhouse continued, referring to the shooting spots in front of each goal. "I looked at Noa Cravens, our goalie, and I said, ‘You pass that to Kayla,' because they were pressed on the top."

"In my mind, I had to get the ball and make the goal," Grigsby said. "That was the plan."

It was the eighth point scored on the season for the junior.

"We don't like to blame it on last goal because we had so many chances. We had a lot of missed shots," Roosevelt coach Sue Nishioka said, whose team failed to connect on 20 misfires.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Gomes slipped a shot past the right side of Kahuku's Cravens, but the ball spluttered back and out before completely crossing the goal line for a score.

"That was just the exclamation point of what our shooting was like the whole game," Nishioka said.

Both teams will have a week to prepare for the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Girls Water Polo State Championships where Kahuku will enjoy a first round bye after earning the OIA's seeded berth.

Joining the Red Raiders and Rough Riders from the OIA in the 12-team tournament will be Kalani, Kapolei, Kaiser and Waialua. No OIA team has won a state championship.

"If we have a year to take it, this is the year," Rittenhouse said. "Next year, we lose our amazing goalie and a few of our starters so it's going to be rough. If it's going to happen, it's going to happen this year."

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