For three quarters, Pleasant Grove (Utah) and Moanalua stood toe to toe.
In the end, it was a matter of attrition. Pleasant Grove’s 7-foot-4 center, Matt Van Komen, overcame foul trouble and stuck through the final quarter to turn a 38-all game into a 57-45 win for the visitors. Van Komen led the Vikings with 18 points.
It was less than pleasant for Moanalua, which saw leading scorer Geremy Robinson get into foul trouble in the second half. He fouled out midway through the fourth period with nine points. It was just bad timing for Na Menehune, who saw center DiAeris McRaven leave the game early in the fourth quarter because of a cut on his hand that was bleeding.
All in all, Moanalua is the only local team that has been competitive enough to be in a game in the second half. The other matchups so far between mainland and island teams have been lopsided in margin: 19 points, 22, 64, 50 and 25.
The 6-foot-5 McRaven had 12 points and five blocks in the game, including three on the towering Van Komen. With the game tied at 38 to start the final quarter, McRaven’s brief departure helped the Vikings go on a pivotal 14-1 run.
It was a homecoming for Vikings point guard Kawika Akina. The former Kahuku hoopster has been their floor general for the past three seasons, but suffered a broken hand during Thanksgiving weekend in a Chicago tournament. He is out for eight weeks, meaning he’ll return in possibly in mid-January.
Coach Randy McAlister and staff wore dark gray T-shirts with Akina’s name and number (21) on the back.
“There’s something about that family. The can all shoot the 3,” he said.
What the Vikings also miss is the court IQ of Akina, a coach’s son. Alan Akina, the former Kahuku head coach, is also here for the tournament. McAlister and his staff have made do, utilizing a reserve player in the rotation.
“We’re still putting it together. We really haven’t been at full strength yet this season,” McAlister said. “He’s been a great asset on the bench.”
Akina’s inner coach is branching out.
“I’m seeing the game totally different now. I’m seeing what the coaches see. I’m realizing what they go through,” he said.
The Vikings will meet Sierra Canyon, the nation’s No. 4-ranked team (MaxPreps) in Thursday’s quarterfinal round.
“We’ll talk about not turning the ball over at halfcourt or we’ll see the dunk show early,” McAlister said. “We’ve got to handle that pressure.”