KEALAKEKUA – Kellen Gillins made a pair of clutch free throws with 24 seconds left and Hawaii Preparatory Academy held on to edge Konawaena 53-52 in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation regular-season finale for both teams in front of a capacity crowd Saturday night at Colonial Ellison S. Onizuka Gymnasium.
“Our goal was to hang in there until the end, and hopefully make it a possession by possession game, which we were able to do,” HPA co-coach Dave Huntington said. “And then luckily it ended the way it did. It could have gone the other way. Both teams are good teams, and this is how we want these league games to be.”
After relinquishing its halftime lead and trailing by six in the opening moments of the fourth quarter, Ka Makani’s perfect season seemed to be jeopardy. But HPA senior guard Kalan Camero hit two big 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to help unbeaten Ka Makani (11-0) keep its streak intact. HPA will head into the postseason as the Division II’s No. 1 seed in the BIIF tournament and will open with Honokaa.
“Konawaena’s a good team, they got a great crowd, and they went on a really big run,” said Camero, who led HPA with 16 points. “We just had to calm down and run our stuff. Play defense, get stops. And that’s what we did.
“Fortunately my teammates got me the ball right when I needed it. It was a great game. Now we’ve got to take care of business in BIIF championships, hopefully get to state from there.”
The loss cost Konawaena (9-2) a chance at clinching a berth at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament. The Wildcats still earned the top seed at the BIIF tournament and will play Hilo High in the semifinals Friday at Hilo’s Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium.
Konawaena looked to have the game under control when Brandon Awa nailed a long 3-pointer with just over 30 seconds left in regulation to give the Wildcats a 52-51 lead. However, Gillins quickly found himself at the free-throw line for Ka Makani after he was fouled while handling the ball. Even though it was a nonshooting foul, the Wildcats already had eight team fouls to put HPA in the bonus, and Gillins came through by making the two biggest free throws of the night. Konawaena coaches and fans were screaming that the call should have been a jump ball.
Konawaena then in-bounded the ball to Awa, who was fouled while trying to set up for a shot. HPA only had three team fouls, so the Wildcats had to take the ball out of bounds. Awa passed the ball in to Jonah Bredeson, who turned and shot but was fouled. However, it was whistled as a non-shooting foul, and Konawaena was again awarded the ball out of bounds with just three seconds left.
Bredeson again caught the in-bounds pass, but had no clear look at the basket. He tried to force a shot around an HPA defender, but the shot bounced off the rim. No foul was called and the final buzzer sounded to a chorus of boos resonating throughout the gym.
“You can’t call that touch foul to give them the lead and then not blow your whistle on the last shot,” said Konawaena coach Donny Awa. “Jonah (Bredeson) got cleaned out down there; everyone in the gym saw the foul. The game can’t end like that, not on a tackle.“
Konawaena started strong and led 6-4 after three quick baskets by Bredeson, but lost most of the early momentum when Gillins fed the ball to Colin Renfro for a dunk down low for HPA. The Wildcats couldn’t get shots to fall and were just 7-of-14 from the line in the first half, and HPA led 29-24 at the break.
However, the Wildcats came out of the locker room smoking hot. Konawaena started the second half with a 10-0 run, highlighted by treys from Awa and Takaki. HPA responded with back-to-back threes from Justas Gecas to stay in the game, but overall were outscored 15-6 in the third quarter.
And after a steal by Bredeson and a basket by Kevin Medeiros to start the fourth quarter, Konawaena had its largest lead of the game at 41-35. But Ka Makani kept battling back, and after two huge 3-pointers by Camero they were able to close the gap and sneak away with the win.