Facing a 13-point deficit with less than 90 seconds left, Kalani nearly completed the arduous climb in Friday’s Division II state championship game.
But the furious rally stalled after closing to within three with 22.6 seconds remaining, leaving the Falcons again just short of the peak.
Saint Francis managed to protect just enough of the lead to capture the D-II title of the Snapple/HHSAA Boys Basketball Championships with a 52-46 win Friday at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Kalani, the tournament’s third seed, survived an overtime duel with Seabury Hall in the semifinals on Thursday to advance to the championship game for the third time in the last four years. Led by senior Jaemi Harris, the Falcons jumped out to an 8-1 lead and Saint Francis went 9:47 before recording its first field goal of the game.
But the Falcons mustered just two free throws in the second quarter while Saint Francis went on a 17-0 run to take command. Saints’ lead swelled to 16 after three quarters and the Falcons stormed back with a 10-2 run to start the fourth.
Saint Francis pushed the lead back to double digits and led 46-33 when Kameron Ng drove to the basket with 1:29 left. Micah Kawano then hit three free throws after drawing a foul on a shot behind the arc and added two more after a Saint Francis technical foul.
After the Saints missed the front end of a one-and-one, Kawano drilled back-to-back 3-pointers to cut the deficit to 48-44 with 35 seconds left.
Saint Francis went 1-for-2 at the line and Kapaa Nishimura also split free throws to make it a one-possession game at 49-46.
But Boris Vukovic made both of his free throws and a steal on Kalani’s next possession sealed the Saints win.
“It’s definitely something in the DNA of our team,” Kalani coach Nathan Davis said. “We never feel like we’re really out of it … we can always grind it out to get close and I never doubted that we could get back into the game.
“We’ve been down double digits a lot of times. (Thursday) night we were down eight in the fourth. I just reminded them we’ve been here a lot of times where we’ve been down and there’s a way to get back in.”
Kawano’s last-minute surge gave him a team-high 15 points and Harris finished with 13 points and nine rebounds.
Davis has spent a decade with the program, building a state title contender while leading the Falcons to their first OIA D-II title this season. With four straight state tournament berths and three appearances in the final, the Falcons’ ascent continues.
“Eleven years ago we were something like 0-17 and it’s been just a steady climb,” Davis said.
“The most humbling thing is the text messages, the calls from former players. Ten years ago I was telling them we’d get here.”