After a string of tough losses, Kealakehe (2-4) rode the momentum from a strong first quarter and 15 points from Kalani Lewi to a 59-47 win against Keaau (3-4) in a Big Island Interscholastic Federation matchup at Kealakehe Gymnasium Friday night.
“We don’t have basketball players, we have guys who play basketball,” said Kealakehe assistant coach Sonny Guerra, who was filling in for head coach Sam Kekuaokalani. “We have athletes — some of these guys are three-sport athletes. We make the best situation out of what we are given,”
Keaau was looking to rebound after a 49-39 loss to Waiakea ended a three-game winning streak.
But Kealakehe was desperate for a win. After a fourth consecutive loss, falling to Hawaii Preparatory Academy Tuesday, the Waveriders became the bottom dwellers in Division I.
Kealakehe came out with an opposite game plan than the slow, patient strategy the team had implemented against Ka Makani. The Waveriders had the pedal to the metal from the tip with a run and gun offense.
“With HPA, we knew it was going to be a heavyweight fight, so we were looking to jab with them, possession for possession,” Guerra said. “We don’t look past any opponent. We pride ourselves on preparing for the team we have in front of us.
“We knew Keaau was not going to press and if we could get quick transitions we could catch them.”
The Waveriders started the game on a 13-2 run, highlighted by Arthur Freddy hitting on all three of his 3-point attempts. For comparison, Kealakehe had 16 points in the entire first half against HPA.
“We like instant offense and we like to push the ball when we can. Our boys are starting to learn we cannot always push the ball, though,” Guerra said. “We have had as many as 35 turnovers in a game. Tonight, we had around 15, so it is nice to see that more than cut in half.”
The visiting Cougars settled in a bit after the initial tidal wave of Kealakehe offense. Led by senior forward Edgar Ventura, the Cougars went on a run of their own.
Ventura was tricked by the home crowd — incorrectly counting down the final seconds — into launching a 3-pointer early. However, as the Waverider fans chuckled, Ventura’s shot swished through the net to close the gap to five, 22-17.
Ventura finished the game with 20 points, 11 of those coming in the first half.
Kealakehe looked to have a stranglehold on the game entering the fourth quarter, with a 10-point cushion, but the Cougars continued to fight. After a 3-pointer by Ventura in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, Kealakehe’s cushion was reduced to three points.
Feeling the change of momentum, the Waveriders shifted gears into a frantic full-court press. Kealakehe’s defensive efforts were rewarded in Keaau turnovers, which led to points for the home team.
The Cougars were not finished, getting hot again from behind the arc with consecutive 3s, drawing within four points with just over three minutes remaining.
From the sideline, an animated Guerra urged his players to continue with the high-octane pace.
“We have a great bunch of guys, and hopefully my energy wears off on them,” Guerra said.
Keanu Tilfas and Lewi picked up the slack for the ‘Riders, recording a combined 10 fourth quarter points, securing the win.
The Waveriders will look to string together consecutive wins for the first time this season Monday at home against Kohala. Keaau faces another road test against Honokaa on Monday.