Waiakea High School coach Paul Lee believes defense is the foundation for a successful basketball team. But he’s also smart enough to push his players to share the ball on offense and make the extra pass.
So, it’s easy to see why Lee was satisfied Friday night after his experienced Warriors broke away from a young Kamehameha squad, 62-37, in a Big Island Interscholastic Federation boys basketball Division I semifinal at Hilo’s Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium.
In the earlier semifinal, hot-shooting Konawaena topped fourth-seeded Hilo 68-42. Konawaena (10-2) and Waiakea (10-2) will play at 7:30 p.m. today at the Civic for the BIIF’s D-I title and league’s top seed in next week’s state tournament in Honolulu.
But for one evening, Lee was a happy camper with his team’s overall performance — and he hopes the successful strategy will continue today and into the state tourney.
“When we move the ball and make the extra pass, we’re unpredictable and teams have a hard time stopping us,” said Lee, after watching his balanced Warriors chalk up the rock-solid victory.
“Tonight, we moved the ball and got quality shots. Our guys have bought into what we’re trying to do, and they’re accepting their roles.”
Senior Lucas St. George led Waiakea with 15 points. Freshman Calvin Mattos had 10 while seniors Maikai Gahan, Dillon Rellez and Kyle Kua-Ramirez each added nine points.
That offensive balance was too much for Kamehameha to overcome. Sophomore Pukana Vincent led the private-school Warriors with 14 points, but the next closest teammate in scoring was sophomore Kaeo Batacam with five.
“We’re finally healthy and executing better on offense,” Lee said. “Kamehameha played a really tough first half tonight. But I thought the difference in the game was when we had a good run right before the half and that momentum carried over into the third quarter.”
Waiakea led 9-8 at the end of the first period and trailed 18-15 with 2:44 left in the half. But Rellez drained a 3-pointer to ignite an 11-2 Waiakea run as the public-school Warriors took a 26-21 lead into the intermission.
Gahan, a senior guard with a deadly 3-point stroke, scored five points during the Waiakea run, including a long trey at the buzzer to cap the spree.
However, Batacan answered with a 3-pointer to open the third period and he was fouled. The young guard then hit the free throw to slice the Waiakea lead to 26-25.
But Rellez, a three-year starter, had two driving layups and senior point guard Bryson Ita added another two-point field goal to stretch the Waiakea lead to 32-25.
The public-school Warriors then outpointed Kamehameha 12-3 over the final 2:33 and carried a 44-30 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
Waiakea outscored Kamehameha 18-7 over the final eight minutes to pull away to the 25-point win.
“We’re starting to finish much better around the basket,” Lee said. “That’s from better execution and making the extra pass.
“Are we peaking now? I’m not sure. But this was our seventh straight win since we lost to Konawaena (on Jan. 18). We’re trying to prepare for the state tournament on Oahu. We’ve got to be ready to play any style and be effective.”
Kamehameha, under coach Dominic Pacheco, finished its season with a 7-5 record.
Kamehameha 8 13 9 7 — 37
Waiakea 9 17 18 18 — 62