HONOLULU – The Konawaena boys basketball team did a lot of things right in its semifinal game against top-seeded Maryknoll on Friday night.
The Wildcats played an aggressive man-to-man defense, limiting the high-scoring Spartans to a mere 45 points. Their severely undersized front line stood tall against Maryknoll’s big, beefy foreign exchange transfer students, battling on the boards and keeping Tobias Schramm and Hyrum Harris from dominating the game in the paint. And the Wildcats stopped sophomore Kaleb Gilmore from scoring from behind the 3-point arc like he did when he fired in five 3-pointers in the quarterfinals.
Unfortunately for fourth-seeded Konawaena, that just wasn’t enough to advance in the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division I state tournament.
The underdog Wildcats watched Maryknoll march to the free-throw line to earn more than half its points and couldn’t find their own offensive rhythm in a disappointing 45-32 loss in front of a raucous crowd that heavily favored hometown Maryknoll at Neal Blaisdell Center.
“We know we’re a better team than that,” Konawaena coach Donny Awa said. “Shots weren’t falling. If our shots start falling, we’re right back in it because our defense did a good job against them.”
Senior forward Nick Mims, who is diabetic and suffered a seizure in the morning, led Konawaena with 10 points. Junior forward Jonah Bredeson pitched in with eight points.
But senior guard Kenan Gaspar, who scored 29 points in the team’s Big Island Interscholastic Federation championship game win over Kamehameha-Hawaii, mustered a season-low two points.
“I couldn’t get nothing, and (with) foul trouble, I was trying to play safe, and it’s hard to play safe. It’s just not my game,” Gaspar said.
Interscholastic League of Honolulu champion Maryknoll (13-1) was led by high-flying junior Joshua Burnett, who threw in 14 points and two fast-break dunks. Schramm, a 6-foot-9 German, and Harris, a 6-5 forward from New Zealand, combined to score 12 points.
With the defeat, Konawaena (13-1) will play in today’s 3 p.m. third-place game against Punahou (10-5) at Neal Blaisdell Center.
On Saturday, the Wildcats will hope to get a fairer shake from the referees than what they got on Friday. Maryknoll was 23-for-32 from the free-throw line. Konawaena was 6-of-9.
It was a point of contention throughout for the Big Island team that watched its best players spend large chunks of the game on the bench in foul trouble and the other part of the game trying to avoid contact and more fouls.
In the middle of the third quarter, Bredeson was bumped on a layup attempt and ended up on the floor. As Maryknoll raced to the other end on a fast break, senior forward Brenton Shropshire slapped down — with frustration — on Burnett’s layup attempt. Shropshire ended up on the bench with his fourth foul, Burnett hit both free throws, and Konawaena found itself in a 30-15 hole, its largest deficit of the game.
“I would like to see a Big Island ref in there,” Awa said after the game. “Playing an ILH team, there were two ILH refs and one OIA ref. Three of them were from Oahu. And the fouls were way against us. They weren’t bad calls, but I feel like there were some calls we could have gotten. And if we’d have gotten those ones that I thought we deserved, it would’ve been a little closer.”
The Wildcats ended the third quarter on a 9-1 run in the last 3 minutes, but they couldn’t get closer than nine points in the final stanza. They finished the game shooting 23 percent (12-for-53) from the field and 12 percent (2-for-17) from 3-point range. Those are numbers that are both a credit to Maryknoll’s defense but also to Konawaena’s poor shooting night.
And with that, the Big Island team will face another ILH team, this time for third place. Punahou fell to second-seeded Kalaheo 55-48 in overtime in Friday’s first semifinal game. The Buffanblu will be playing their fourth game in four days.
Konawaena will attempt to match its best state finish ever. In 2008, however, the Wildcats won third by default (a 2-0 final score) after Moanalua forfeited the game. Though Awa promised to stretch his bench a bit more and play more reserves in the final game of the season, Mims said he will still play like it’s a championship game.
“It was a great season,” Mims said. “I love my basketball boys. I’m just happy we made it this far. Showed everybody else how we could play and what we could do.”
Konawaena 7 6 11 8— 32
Maryknoll 11 11 9 14 — 45