KEAAU — Kamehameha-Hawaii senior Evan Enriques capped his final home game at Koaia Gym with a spectacular performance, and it was pretty much the same thing for his volleyball brother, Kamehameha-Kapalama senior Kaehu Kaaa.
The two outside hitters grew up playing ball together, but the lifetime friends turned into foes for a day at the quarterfinals of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division I state tournament Saturday.
Enriques, a 6-foot-1 outside hitter, pulled a double-double with 28 kills and 20 digs as the home Warriors defeated the visiting Warriors from Oahu for the third straight time, 24-26, 25-22, 25-19, 27-25.
Kaaa, a 6-2 senior hitter, finished with 21 kills and resembles Enriques, who’s headed to Stanford to play ball, in more ways than one. Kaaa has an academic package and will walk on at Grand Canyon.
“I really enjoyed coming home, and I like playing good competition,” Kaaa said. “Evan is one of my best friends and I thought we did good even though we lost. It was an exciting game and I’m proud of my team.”
His dad is Kelsey Kaaa, who played at the University of Hawaii, and his mom is Napua (Kawaa) Kaaa, who played for UH-Hilo. The other standout Warrior’s dad is Guy Enriques, Kamehameha-Hawaii’s coach, and his mom Julie played at Oregon State.
Kaaa and Enriques, who’s in his only year playing with all three brothers (junior Emmett and freshmen twins Addie and Avery), sharpened themselves as youngsters at Junior Olympics and High-Performance camps.
They played on the club team Ka Ulukoa, coached by Pono Maa. That Oahu squad won the Junior Olympic 13 and 14 age titles two consecutive years, spearheaded by the Enriques-Kaaa tandem.
Kamehameha-Hawaii (14-0), the Big Island Interscholastic Federation champion, advances to the semifinals against Moanalua on Friday at McKinley High’s gym on Oahu.
“It was nice that we played mentally tough, under that kind of pressure with a lot of young kids,” Guy Enriques said of his team that has only one senior in Evan. “Kamehameha-Kapalama’s whole idea was to rip at our block. With our high hands, we were vulnerable to tool shots, but once we lowered it that made all the difference.
“I think our ball-control was a little better, but we had spurts struggling with our passing, especially our serve-receive. We didn’t win the serve-receive game and that’s reflected in the scores. The nice thing is we played our brothers and they’re a tough team. We’ve played two tough teams in the last two games, them and Waiakea (in the BIIF championship). That builds our confidence.”
The season is over for Kamehameha-Kapalama (9-4), the Interscholastic League of Honolulu runner-up. Breynt Cannon added 17 kills while Haiau Machado had 10 kills.
BIIF runner-up Waiakea was eliminated by two-time defending state champion Punahou 25-17, 25-21, 25-18 in the quarterfinals on Oahu.
The season is over for the Warriors (12-3), who lose their entire starting lineup in seniors Mamane Namahoe, Kama Paio, Dillon Rellez, Keanu Esser, Ohlen Sugihara, Bronson Napolean and Anthony Dollwet. Kaaa’s brother is sophomore Kamalu Kaaa, a 6-3 opposite.
At Koaia Gym the game marked the return of Kaaa, who played his freshman year at Kamehameha-Hawaii, and featured not only the opposing volleyball brothers trading firepower, but also a shift in one key fundamental: blocking.
The Big Island Warriors also had solid balance on both ends. Emmett, a 6-foot junior, added 12 kills and 11 digs while Alapaki Iaea had eight kills and libero Kekaulike Alameda scrambled for 20 digs.
“We had to play steady. That was the key,” Evan Enriques said. “Our blocking was frustrating as hell. It took us two, three sets to realize you don’t really need high hands. The worst thing that can happen with a lower block is the ball flies back. Our passing is what saved us. When our middles jumped, their middles jumped and that opened things up. Everybody stepped up, and that was the biggest thing.
“It’s funny the way things worked out. Kaehu started here and he came back where it all started.”
The home team’s blocking kept getting better as the day wore on, adjusting from jumping skyward with high hands that often resulted in a surplus of tools shots by Kamehameha-Kapalama, to lowering a roof that led to stuffs.
Tied at 1-all, Game 3 was the swing set, shifting momentum to someone’s side.
Kamehameha-Kapalama was its own worst enemy with 14 hitting errors. The Big Island Warriors found the floor far more often, and had just five hitting miscues.
Evan Enriques cranked five kills, and left a memorable going-away present at Koaia Gym with nine kills in the last set.