Eddie Bento, who led St. Joseph to the Big Island’s first Hawaii High School Athletic Association basketball title, died Jan. 25 in Mission Viejo, Calif. He was 72.
He was a 6-foot-4 1/2 senior when the Cardinals defeated Saint Louis 53-50 in overtime for the Territorial basketball tournament in 1958 at an overpacked Hilo Civic Auditorium. (Hawaii became a state the following year.)
Bento scored a game-high 20 points in the championship game and was the leading rebounder. The Hilo Tribune-Herald selected Bento as the tournament’s most outstanding player.
“It was a special team that first started playing together when we were all 10 and 11 years old under Coach Victor,” brother Arlen Bento said. “It was destined to be a great team — the best St. Joseph ever had.”
Many of the basketball oldtimers in Hawaii considered Bento as the “most outstanding high school basketball player prior to statehood.” He was known for his scoring ability — fueled by a soft perimeter touch — and tough rebounding.
Bento played basketball at Loyola Marymount on scholarship from 1959-62. He was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 1986. He was an all-conference player for three years and led the Lions to their first conference championship in 1961.
In his senior season, LMU came to the Big Island and defeated the University of Hawaii in a game in Hilo.
Eddie Bento became a businessman in Southern California. He is survived by his wife Pamela, two sons, two daughters, sisters Gail Bento and Karen Andrade and brother Arlen Bento; and eight grandchildren.
A memorial Mass for Eddie Bento will be held Feb. 23 at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Papaikou.