‘Iolani roars back to floor Kapolei

'Iolani's Branson Suzuki (14) cleared the ball during the first half against Kapolei. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell/Star-Advertiser.

Can Saturday’s Division I final surpass the incredible display of fireworks from Friday’s semifinals of The Queen’s Medical Center/HHSAA Boys Soccer State Championships?

If it does, Hawaii fans are in for a special treat.

‘Iolani capped Friday night at Waipio Peninsula Soccer Stadium with a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over Kapolei. Before they awoke, the Raiders appeared to be headed for certain elimination.

In the first semifinal, Punahou and Mililani squared off in an intense duel. The Trojans fought back from a two-goal deficit to tie, but then after 20 minutes of overtime, it went down to PKs, where the second-seeded Buffanblu prevailed 5-3 for the 3-2 victory.

So now it’s down to one more match — an All-ILH final Saturday night. The matchup, so far, favors Punahou, since the Buffanblu finished 2-0-1 against the Raiders this season, including a 4-1 victory in the league championship game.

“I would expect a big crowd tomorrow for an ‘Iolani-Punahou match,” Raiders coach Chris Lee said.

That might just be an understatement. Both schools have a lot of followers, most of whom especially await this kind of a Raiders-Buffanblu matchup for the whole enchilada.

After getting outplayed in the first half and a good portion of the second, ‘Iolani got going with two Lincoln Oishi goals off of direct kicks.

Those two goals took the wind out of Kapolei’s sails. They had been comfortably ahead 1-0 and had just missed adding to the lead.

Isaak Tanaka, the Raiders’ goalkeeper, robbed the Hurricanes’ Tommy Mascaro-Keahi on a boomer from the left wing. Mascaro-Keahi barely missed another one. He beat Tanaka to a loose ball and pushed it forward. The ball rolled all the way to the goal line, but it was booted away just before it crossed by ‘Iolani defender Jacob Lee.

Wailoa Manuel gave the Raiders a 3-1 edge in the 67th minute as Kapolei’s dream to make the final slipped farther away.

With less than two minutes left on the unofficial clock, Joe Wren got one back for the Hurricanes for the final 3-2 count.

“There was a point that we had a couple of chances to put that second goal in,” Hurricanes co-head coach Ryan Lau said. “We gave them two opportunities on restarts and they capitalized. I thought our guys played hard and we created a lot of chances against a quality team. We were really attacking, but we couldn’t get that second goal and it kept them (the Raiders) in the game. We had a good hold of it, but we gave up two unfortunate chances. The third one they scored really hurt because we were still creating chances.”

Kapolei, which has never won a D-I state title, was trying to make its first final since 2016, when it lost 2-0 to Punahou.

‘Iolani is going for a 10th title and first since 2014.

“Hopefully tomorrow is our night,” Lee said. “Kapolei came out strong and we just couldn’t gain our composure at the beginning of the game. This team (‘Iolani) has some grit to it. They showed it tonight.”

The Raiders (13-2-1) had some extra incentive. Elijah Brown went down with a serious arm injury in Thursday’s 2-1 quarterfinal win over defending co-champion and top-seeded Hawaii Prep.

“Elijah got surgery last night,” Oishi said. “He’s watching us right now on TV. We played for him. He’s in a hospital bed. We had to win it for him.

And what about playing against Punahou again?

“It’s just the next game,” Oishi continued. “It’s something we always think about. We gotta win every next game. We don’t think about it as a championship. It’s just the next game.”

David Trifonovitch, the coach of the Buffanblu (11-1-2), knows the Raiders are out to avenge that 4-1 loss in the ILH title match.

“They’re a good team and they’re playing with intensity and passion right now,” he said about ‘Iolani. “They’ve raised their game since the beginning of the season.

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