KEAAU — Hilo’s Drew Kell doesn’t always get a lot of attention for his basketball skills. But on Saturday night, the steady Kell played one of the best games of his varsity career as the Vikings beat Kamehameha-Hawaii 41-37 win to claim East Hawaii’s top seed in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division I tournament.
About 650 fans watched the boys basketball game at the Warriors’ gym.
Kamehameha (8-4), East Hawaii’s No. 3 seed, will play West Hawaii No. 2 seed Kealakehe (3-7) on the road in a first-round playoff game scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday. The winner will play Hilo (10-2) at 7:30 p.m. Friday in a BIIF semifinal at Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium.
Kell, a 6-foot junior and star quarterback on the Vikings’ football team, had nine points, nine rebounds, three steals, three assists and a blocked shot on a potential game-tying 3-pointer with 23 seconds remaining in a terrific all-around performance.
“I wasn’t really trying to block the shot,” Kell said. “I just tried to get my hand up and bother him.”
But once Kell rejected the trey attempt, junior teammate Jalen Carvalho was fouled and went to the free-throw line, where he hit one of two charity shots to stretch the lead to 41-37 with 20 seconds left. The Warriors tried to attack again, and Hilo’s defense held a final time before the clock ran out on Kamehameha.
“It’s a big win for us,” Kell said. “We knew we needed to play as a team tonight, and everybody stepped up to play their roles.”
Senior guard Kamu Patnaude led Hilo with 12 points, including 10 in the second half, and turned in an excellent defensive game while hounding dangerous Warrior scorer Laa Manliguis. Patnaude also had four rebounds and four steals.
Carvalho, the sharpshooting southpaw who was the main focus of Kamehameha’s defense all evening, finished with nine points, including two treys. He also had a game-high 10 rebounds as the Vikings outrebounded the Warriors in the physical contest.
Still, it was Hilo’s defense late in the contest that made a difference, especially when Kamehameha had a chance to tie in the last 27 seconds and came up empty as Kell & Co. denied them a quality shot attempt.
“We knew they were going to look for the 3,” Kell said. “Coach matched us up on defense, and we tried to lock down on them. I’m glad it worked out for us. It was a good team effort tonight.”
Manliguis, a junior, led the Warriors with nine points, including an NBA distance trey with 1:02 remaining in the game to pull the hosts to within 38-35. But Patnaude answered with a free throw on the Vikings’ next possession to make it 39-35.
Senior Shaun Kagawa, who struggled shooting the ball all night, then hit a high-flying layup with 38 seconds remaining to slice the Hilo cushion to 39-37.
Viking junior point guard Austin Dante was fouled three seconds later and calmly swished two free throws to extend the visitors’ lead to 40-37. And that set the stage for Hilo’s biggest defensive stand of the night as Kell stepped up and blocked a trey attempt by Kamehameha’s Pukana Vincent.
Carvalho then followed with his clutch free throw to close scoring.
Kell’s early spark on offense — he scored Hilo’s first six points, rugged rebounding, tough defense and two timely assists in the second half — were keys to the visitors building a 31-21 lead through three periods. On his assists, he attacked the basket in transition, feeding Patnaude for an easy layup and then Jacob Genegabuas for another two-pointer in the final 2:53 of the third quarter.
“I felt comfortable tonight on offense,” Kell said. “I was looking to be a threat and score if I was open. But my main job is to give my teammates opportunities — and to rebound and play defense.”
Hilo led 10-8 at the end of the first period and 23-12 at the intermission. Then after outscoring Kamehameha 9-8 in a defensive battle in the third quarter, the Vikings held off the Warriors for the important win despite being outpointed 16-10 in the eight-minute frame.
Kagawa finished with seven points, six in the second half, to go along with six rebounds, five steals and four assists. Vincent, a 5-11 freshman, added seven points, all after the intermission when the Warriors needed an offensive spark. Junior forward Micah Carter had six points and six rebounds for the hosts.
Dante also had five assists and four rebounds while often being guarded by the athletic Kagawa, one of the best defensive players in the state.
After the game, the Warriors and their fans honored seniors Kagawa, Ilikai Calip and Arden Costales. Each spoke to the fans and then took their final shot. Kagawa drew the biggest applause for bouncing the ball high off the floor and then dunking it. But that applause still wasn’t as big as the screaming that followed his giving a friend flowers and asking her to the prom — and her accepting — as he spoke to the crowd on the PA system before throwing down the dunk.
In junior varsity action, Hilo defeated Kamehameha 41-33 behind 13 points from Jordan Caogdan and eight from Trevor Castro. Dayson Alip led the Warriors with six points.
Hilo 10 13 8 10 — 41
Kamehameha 8 4 9 16 — 37