When Kaimuki fell behind 36-15 at Radford on Saturday night, coach Greydon Espinda didn’t have a lot of words for his team at the break.
His team was playing fairly good defense. Shots weren’t falling. There was still 16 minutes to play.
“It got worse. (The lead) was in the mid-20s,” Espinda said of the point margin. “I just told them play as a team, not as individuals, and they did that in the whole second half. It’s about playing for each other and not for themselves.”
It was time for shooters like Rashawn Fritz-Betiru to be assertive.
“I told him at halftime, take 20 shots if you want. It’s really about making good choices. He’s got great range. We were just trying to make the game more respectable,” Espinda said.
Kaimuki did that and more. Fritz-Betiru poured in 27 second-half points and finished with 36 as the visiting Bulldogs rallied for a 62-59 win. The senior finished with seven treys.
“I knew he had a lot of 3-pointers, but I didn’t know how much,” Espinda said. “If you pick him up, he has a really nice drive to the basket.”
Radford assistant coach Josh Pieper is also the statistician.
“(Fritz-Betiru) was relatively quiet in the first half. He scored like 27 in the second half. The first half we had a pretty good lead. We will have to learn how to manage big leads in the future and containing hot shooters. Kaimuki did a good job of getting him in his spots too,” he said.
Malu Cleveland, Kaimuki’s versatile, high-flying senior, added 16 points. He fouled out with around 3 minutes left.
“We were still losing,” Espinda said.
Coming up with stops was equally crucial. Radford scored just six points in the final quarter. Sean Arakawa led the charge under the glass.
“One kid (Sean Arakawa) didn’t score a single point, but he was getting rebounds, and he was going up against a big, strong kid,” Espinda said.
Arakawa, a 6-foot-1 post, actually did score one point. Aside from Fritz-Betiru and Cleveland, no other Bulldog scored more than four points.
Radford’s Tyler Grover had 18 points, while Hawkins Souffrant and Christopher Love had 10 each. Grover made an impact.
“They have a guy (Grover) who has mad skills. He’s a legit D-I college player. That kid is incredible,” Espinda said. “Four guys couldn’t stop him in transition. Even at the end when it came to the last-second shot, it almost went in. He’s a nice addition.”
Grover is a combo guard.
“Tyler has definitely taken it upon himself to elevate his game to a higher level,” Pieper said. “Coach Travis (Armstrong) has told him that he will be relied on for a big role this year with all the new faces. He recognizes that he is going to be consistent and bring leadership every day.”
Radford had a few missing players who just completed football season.
“That’s going to be a good team,” Espinda said.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs will keep grinding away daily. Espinda has them open practice with a minimum of 20 minutes of shooting.
“The last few shots have to be a foot or two off the line,” he said.
Big Island’s long-distance Cowboys
Coach Kihei Kapeliela and his Kohala Cowboys have ventured to all corners of Hawaii Island many a time over the years and decades. On Saturday, it was a double-the-fun opportunity at Hilo’s gym with the host Vikings and Lahainaluna.
Kohala prevailed over Hilo, 63-56, and over the Lunas, 53-36. For the first time in nearly two years, hoop fans on the Big Island – some of the most passionate fanatics of the sport statewide — got to enjoy the sights of live high school basketball.
“They let spectators in as long as they were vaccinated, and let the boys play without a mask,” Kapeliela said. “Our parents who couldn’t make it were able to watch on Hilo High’s YouTube channel.”
Standout guard O’shen Cazimero is recovering from an injury. The 2019-20 Star-Advertiser All-State Fab 15 guard was healthy enough to get on the floor Saturday.
“He’s still a little banged up, but I’ll take him at 90 percent over anyone else,” Kapeliela said.