Konawaena Wildcats knock off a taller Aussie team at World Basketball Tournament

A hot start and a late surge propelled the Konawaena Wildcats to a 78-70 preseason win over Australia at the World Youth Basketball Tournament on Friday night at the Kekuaokalani Gymnasium.

“For us to cap off the preseason with tough tests against these teams and to get a win tonight really shows how far along we have come,” said Tory Guillermo, who filled in for head coach Donny Awa. “They really tested our offensive and defensive execution, but tonight we played a complete game.”

The loss was the first for Australia at the tournament.

Konawaena sprinted to an early lead, starting the game on a 15-2 run and looking as if it could run away. Jonah Bredeson and Brandon Awa led the charge for the Wildcats, driving to the rim and getting to the line nearly every possession.

Awa and Bredeson combined for 36 points in the game — 21 of those in the first half.

“If we can get one guy going, we ride the hot hand,” said Guillermo. “Tonight it was Jonah and Brandon. It doesn’t matter who it is. The guys have no egos.”

Like any good team, Australia bounced back from the slow start, storming back to tie the game with a parade of 3-pointers. However, it was a late 3 from Awa — which received a few favorable bounces on the rim before falling in — that ended the half with Konawaena leading 39-34.

Despite possessing a distinct height advantage on the Wildcats, Australia did the majority of its scoring behind the arc.

After a scoreless first half, Leigh Saffin came out of the break on fire, hitting five-of-six 3s — some from well beyond the arc — and accounting for 17 of his team’s 22 third-quarter points.

Saffin finished with 19.

Australia took its first and only lead of the game in the first minute of the fourth quarter, but Konawaena quickly responded with a three-point play by Bredeson to take the lead back. Konawaena was then gifted two more points on a Bredeson steal and converted on another and-one play by Kevin Medeiros — a seven-point swing in all.

Despite the stellar play of his teammates, the play of the night belonged to Chase Takaki. With less than four minutes remaining in the game, Takaki drove to the rim and put away a falling layup after heavy contact. Takaki converted on the free throw, giving the Wildcats a commanding 78-66 lead — the largest of the game since the first quarter run.

The play was the proverbial nail in the coffin for Australia.