KEAAU — Bigger is not necessarily better, at least for Konawaena, which lost its main source of height with the graduation of 6-foot-8 Brenton Shropshire.
No matter and no big deal for the Wildcats, who instead possess plenty of speed, a helpful asset on both ends of the floor.
Konawaena raced to the rim, got back on transition defense, most of the time, and thumped Kamehameha 65-48 in the opening round of the Keaau-Waiakea Boys Basketball Classic on Wednesday.
Showing his quick and athletic skill-set, Brandon Awa made all sorts of pretty layups (six in all) to score a game-high 23 points for the Wildcats.
He dropped in a twisting layup with 2.5 seconds left before halftime. Awa was fouled on the play. He then finished the three-point play with a nothing-but-net free throw to provide Konawaena a comfortable 31-18 halftime cushion.
Chase Takaki, another speedster and Konawaena football player like Awa, added 12 points, including two 3-pointers. His foot-speed made him an outlet option on offense, and an early defender to stop transition attacks.
Kevin Medeiros added seven points, including two treys, and Jonah Bredeson contributed six points and 10 rebounds, stepping in Shropshire’s shoes as the main rebound collector. Shropshire is at Mt. Hood (Ore.) College.
Meanwhile, Kekaulike Alameda came off the bench and had eight points, including a pair of 3-pointers, to lead the Warriors. Ina Teofilo added seven points and Micah Carter had five points.
The last time Konawaena and Kamehameha met was for the BIIF Division I championship in February at Hilo Civic. Kenan Gaspar scored 29 points and the Wildcats beat the Warriors 68-55 for their first title since 2008. In the most interesting first-day preseason matchup at Keaau High’s gym, the two battled again in what shaped up as an early measuring stick with so much change across the BIIF landscape.
That will likely make for fun times in the dogfight for two spots to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division I state tournament. With the return of the round-robin format, the regular-season champion will claim the first state berth.
“We’ll be as good as last season,” Konawaena coach Donny Awa said. “We’re a little smaller, but better in some areas. We’re faster and we’ve got an eight-man rotation that we’re comfortable with.”
Gaspar is gone to graduation, along with a pile high of the league’s talent. Of the 20 players on the All-BIIF East and West first and second teams, 14 of those players departed, including the players of the year: Pahoa’s Nick Fisher, who’s at Chaminade, and HPA’s Jovan Crnic, who’s at Northern Oklahoma College.
Konawaena graduated three starters: West first-team guard Gaspar, athletic second-team guard Nick Mims, and Shropshire, an honorable mention shot-blocking center. The returning starters are second-team picks Awa, who’ll run the point, and Bredeson, a 6-foot versatile forward who provided contributions on both ends of the floor. “Everybody thought we’d fall off the charts with the loss of three starters,” Brandon Awa said. “We don’t have height, but a lot of speed. We’re going to push teams to play uptempo with us. That’s what we want and it was good to see.
“Last season my role was to break (defensive) pressure and dish the ball to our scorers. All of us have to contribute. We won’t have a mass scorer, someone scoring 30 points. But we’ll get guys scoring 17, 15, 12 points for us.”
Kamehameha 7 11 13 17 — 48
Konawaena 20 11 18 16 — 65
Other tournament scores:
Hilo 57, Kealakehe 55: Jalen Carvalho scored 27 points and Austin Dante finished with 12 to power the Vikings.
Keanu Tilfas led the Waveriders with 13 points.
Hawaii Prep 65, Waiakea II 33: Kalen Camero led Ka Makani with 13 points, while Evaldas Vegertas and Hide Akai contributed 10 apiece.
Daylen Ita’s 19 points paced Waiakea II.
Kaiser 65, Kohala 49: Kelsey Lewis poured in 17 points to pace the Cougars of the Oahu Interscholastic Association.
The Cowboys got 13 points from Mikala Jordan and 11 from Justin Agbayani.
Waiakea 72, Honokaa 31: Lucas St. George led the Warriors’ dominating effort with 15 points, and Makai Gahan had 12.
Cjay Carvalho chipped in with 12 points for the Dragons.
Keaau 50, St. Joseph 20: Edgar Ventura’s 16 points and Kelly Gani’s 11 sparked the Cougars past the Cardinals. Ben Uhlmann scored 10 for St. Joseph.
Pahoa 57, Kamehameha-Maui 46: Tolby Saito led all scorers with 27 points and Keinan Agonias added 13 to power the Daggers to victory.
The Warriors were led by Erin Lindsey and Quinn Kihune, who each scored 10 points.
Ka’u def. Keaau II: The Trojans won, but a score wasn’t available are press time.