Hoopbook: Return of Robbie Sauvao sparks Kahuku over No. 7 Moanalua

Kahuku's Robbie Sauvao, who played quarterback for the Red Raiders in 2018, left to play for a school on the mainland in 2019 but is back to play basketball for the Red Raiders in 2020. Photo by Jay Metzger/Special to the Star-Advertiser.

Big Red just got redder.

Robbie Sauvao returned to Kahuku recently, transferring back from Western (Anaheim, Calif.). He suited up in time for the Red Raiders’ battle against No. 7 Moanalua and played a key role in Kahuku’s 63-60 win on Thursday night.

Now 6 feet, 3 inches, Sauvao had nine points, five assists and four steals. He shot 4-for-7 from the field.

“It’s just what we needed,” Kahuku coach Brandyn Akana said. “A big, experienced guard.”

Sauvao left Kahuku in late summer and played for Western’s football team. He finished the football season as a Pac-4 all-league first-team selection by the Orange County Register.

The win is Kahuku’s first over a Top 10 team. Kahuku (5-4 overall) lost at No. 8 Kailua 61-50 on Saturday to open the regular season. The OIA East race just got tighter with Sauvao’s return. In addition to Moanalua and Kailua, No. 5 Kalaheo has been on fire, and No. 9 Kaiser is another contender.

For standings, schedules and results, click here.

The Red Raiders travel to Farrington on Saturday. Moanalua (6-8, 1-1), under recently-hired coach Michael Johnson, will host Roosevelt on Saturday.

Cowboy nation riding high
Kohala made a statement on Thursday night with a 70-67 overtime win over Hilo at Hisaoka Gymnasium. The homecourt win lifts Kohala to 3-0 in BIIF play with a road game at Honokaa on Monday.

O’Shen Cazimero led Kohala with 26 points. Koby Agbayani added 16, Jeffrey Francisco had 12 and 5-foot-10 Molonai Emeliano was a towering presence with 11 rebounds, four blocks and eight points.

Kaukahi Alameda paced Hilo with 20 points.

“It was a packed house,” Cowboys coach Kihei Kapeliela said. “Molonai has been a beast on the boards all year. He’s our only big man.”

The Cowboys have a lot of potential this season with the infusion of young talent under Kapeliela, in his first season as varsity head coach. The program fared well under previous coach Don Fernandez, but the current group has extensive off-season club experience and has bloodlines that trace back to some of the top Kohala players of a generation ago.

The last time the teams played was on Nov. 21 at Waiakea’s tournament. Hilo won that matchup, 65-55. On Friday, making the 78-mile drive from campus to Kohala — a two-hour trek — demonstrated why the BIIF has some of the toughest road games in the state.

The Vikings’ were coming a three-game win streak. Hilo had nearly upset Science Hill (Tenn.), which went on to reach the final of the Punahou Invitational. The Viks then dispatched Le Jardin (75-38), Hanalani (62-49) and Hawaii Baptist (69-48) before returning home on Monday.

At 1-2 in BIIF play (14-5 overall), Hilo is clearly one of the state’s better teams. So is Kohala. The difference is Kohala and its small enrollment are in Division II.

Windward showdown
No. 5 Kalaheo and No. 8 Kailua have battled many times for bragging rights on the Windward side, for OIA East and league supremacy. But this early-season matchup on Saturday could swing either team to a state-tournament berth.

Kailua (12-3, 1-0 OIA) is unbeaten against unranked opponents. The Surfriders are also 0-3 against Top 10 competition — Mid-Pacific, Punahou and Maryknoll. On Saturday, they will host a Kalaheo squad that has shown an ability to pound the ball inside for points.

Returnees Nainoa Peters and Lydell Romero combined for 36 points in a 63-55 win at Roosevelt on Thursday.

Kalaheo (12-7, 2-0) is coming off wins over Kaiser (61-42) and Kalani (57-35). The Mustangs aren’t quite as tall as MPI, Punahou and Maryknoll, but their ability to attack the paint and score inside first, then outside, is more constant. Ryan Owens (6-5), Bobby Thompson (6-4) and Andrew Jones (6-6) have been effective inside. So has 6-1 junior Luke Pardini and 6-1 senior Kanoa Smith.


  1. CALI4NIA DREAMER January 3, 2020 7:38 pm

    Sauvao went to the mainland for football because Kahuku had him playing out of position at QB. He played safety/rover in Cali. He excelled because it’s was his natural position. He won’t be the last Kahuku kid to go to a mainland school to play football and return to play another sport and graduate with his friends.

  2. HI HS FAN January 3, 2020 7:47 pm

    Sauvao was playing out of position at Kahuku. His strength was as a safety/rover. Did well on the mainland. Not the first nor last Kahuku athlete to transfer out to play on the mainland and return to play and graduate from Kahuku.

  3. HI HS FAN January 3, 2020 7:54 pm

    Akana will bring the team together after a slow start and get them into the OIA playoffs and states. Sophomore Amari Westmorland-Vendiola is a baller. They have a lot of physical athletes, too.

  4. rrforlifebaby January 3, 2020 9:39 pm

    That just shows the selfishness of some of these kids/parents. At the next level, unless you’re one of the top recruits, the coaches want kids who are willing to do what it takes to get on the field, and many times, that will include being a team player and playing a position that maybe you’re not accustomed too or is your “favorite”. Although I agree he is a better defensive player, I disagree with his football move. And in case you all are wondering, if you’ve seen his highlights, most of the kids he was going up against in that Cali league weren’t that good.

    But that’s football season, which is done. As far as basketball, it’s good to see him back in Red.


  5. JetWavy January 4, 2020 10:52 am

    Doesn’t seem like the 6’9″ (probably a lot shorter) transfer is living up to the hype so far for Kahuku. He had articles written about him prior to coming and really hasn’t done didly.

  6. HSAA Fan January 5, 2020 6:49 am

    Your article on the Kohala/Hilo game in regards to tough BIIF road games was intriguing. It got me envisioning what it would be like if the Boys Basketball State Tournament was similar to the Football playoffs where first round games would be held at the ranked teams home gyms/islands. For example if Kohala wins the BIIF D-2 title and get a top seed, how much of an advantage would having their first game in Kapaau be with that frenzied crowd? Are the BIIF, MIL, and KIF teams at a disadvantage having to travel to Oahu for states? Don’t get me wrong, I 100% believe the ILH and OIA are steps ahead when it come to talent. But would that home court advantage bring some balance? I don’t know but it would definitely be some great atmosphere for Boys Basketball. The potential of a packed Civic for a Hilo state game would be amazing. On the flip side it would allow these athletes from the ILH and OIA to experience overnight/air travel, something some of them who move on to play college ball would benefit from. Thoughts?

  7. ookla January 6, 2020 9:39 am

    okay kahuku people, do you see people crying or complaining about the transfers for basketball? No so please do the same for football and stop being crybabies.

  8. Da Moc January 6, 2020 2:46 pm


    are you new to this site? people were definitely crying on here about kahuku’s basketball transfers when they were winning. but now that their transfers aren’t studs like before, people aren’t all up in arms like before.

  9. Cryhyn January 17, 2020 7:07 pm

    They go to Kahuku because Akana is the best HS coach. He has the most D1 college recruits then anyone else. Same like Stl. Cept Kahuku is a public school, so it’s called transfers.

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