HONOKAA — Hilo coach Ben Pana likes to multitask.
Even as he was tending to his duties as the Vikings girls basketball coach last month at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament in Honolulu, he was coordinating with his boys volleyball assistants during tryouts back on the Big Island.
Pana wanted to make sure Justice Lord was getting a good look at middle blocker, and it was easy to see why Saturday at Honokaa Armory.
Lord, it turns out, can multitask, too.
When the 6-foot-6 junior wasn’t stonewalling the Dragons at the net defensively, he was using short, compact swings to put down kills — just enough to lift Hilo to a five-set victory: 25-12, 19-25, 25-21, 20-25, 15-11.
Pana said the turning point came around the third set when the Division I Vikings (4-0 Big Island Interscholastic Federation) started setting Lord in the middle, which in turn opened up space for everyone else.
“The middle was wide-open,” Lord said. “Honokaa kind of missed on that. When we realized it at the end, they started setting me.”
“He kept them honest,” Pana said.
Senior outside hitters Isaiah Victor and Kaululaau Ontai posted 14 and 12 kills, respectively, while Lord finished with 10 kills and eight blocks.
His biggest contributions came in the first and fifth games.
With Hilo clinging to a 6-4 lead in the decisive set, Lord’s would-be kill was nixed by a net violation. He didn’t agree with the call, but he responded shortly thereafter by ripping off three straight kills to give Hilo some breathing room.
“I was kind of getting excited, but I was angry so it helped out,” Lord said. “I got help from my teammates, too.”
Junior Shyrome Batin smacked 14 kills for Honokaa (3-2), including four apiece in the second and fourth sets.
“Considering we had no preseason and three weeks of practice, the boys did really good,” said Shelton Kalilikane, who coaches Honokaa along with his father, Steven. “We had big hopes and dreams coming into this game and challenging a D-I team. Especially a team as tall and athletic as Hilo.”
Short and quick, Honokaa almost pulled off the upset. Senior Cjay Carvalho came through with 10 kills and seniors Chance Salva, the team’s only club player, and Makana Loo had seven apiece.
Honokaa hasn’t been to the Division II state tournament since Shelton Kalilikane led them there as a senior in 2008, but he thinks this team has a good chance to end the drought.
“Oh yeah, definitely,” Kalilikane said. “We’ve had these boys since their freshman year. They never did play volleyball before, but now they’re seniors. If anything, this would be the year for us to take it.”
The Vikings feature three club players: libero Trevor Castro, setter Maikah Tandal (eight kills, four aces) and Lord.
As Ontai carried Hilo offensively in the first set, Lord dominated with five blocks.
“The first time we’ve seen him try to control the net,” Pana said. “Every day he’s improving. That’s going to be a big key for us.
“I’d like to see our communication get better. We’re athletic; as long as we spread the ball around, we’ll be a tough matchup.”
A.J. Matsumoto finished with seven kills for the Vikings, who face their first big Division I test of the season Monday night at Waiakea.
In junior varsity action, Hilo topped Honokaa 25-23, 25-15.