No one man could stop Amari Westmoreland-Vendiola, but a pile of personal fouls certainly did.
The high-scoring Kahuku senior sat for a key stretch of the second half with four fouls, allowing No. 8 Kailua to rally from an 11-point deficit for a stunning 50-45 win over No. 5 Kahuku on Thursday night. Westmoreland-Vendiola came into the game averaging 26 points per game. He finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks.
Kailua earned the top seed in the OIA East by finishing league play 11-0. Kahuku, playing before a spirited senior-night crowd at home, fell to 10-1. Both teams had already clinched first-round byes in the upcoming OIA Division I playoffs.
Westmoreland-Vendiola picked up his second and third fouls in the third quarter, but coach Brandyn Akana noted that a fourth foul was mistakenly assessed to him.
“They gave the wrong guy the foul,” Akana said. “That was a foul on Ben (Holakeituai), not Amari That hurt us.”
Kailua might have won the game regardless. After a “flat” start to the battle, junior guard Jonny Philbrick put on a show. The 5-foot-9 slasher was in clinic mode, using hesitation moves, crossovers and a mix of runners off the glass to score 21 of his 29 points in the second half.
Nobody had scored like this with this kind of success against Kahuku all season.
“In the beginning of the game, I was changing my shot, forcing my shots. Should I shoot it or not shoot it. In the second half, our whole team focused in, took our time, took our shots,” Philbrick said.
He was also money at the free-throw line down the stretch, hitting seven of his last eight tries. He finished 10-for-13 at the stripe.
“I could’ve did better. Not to make an excuse, but the ball was slippery a couple times. I wasn’t focusing,” he said.
Kailua’s old-school 6-foot-4 sophomore, Noa Donnelly, proved to be clutch, too. He finished with eight points and seven boards, scoring six of those points during Kailua’s big 20-9 run in the second half.
His key play, though, caught almost everyone by surprise. He hauled in a rebound and led the fast break, dishing a perfect pass to Ethan Kunz for an easy layup that gave Kailua a 43-42 lead with 3 minutes to play.
Kailua never trailed again.
Surfriders coach Walter Marciel said it came down to a want-to factor in the second half. He talked to his team about boxing out under the glass and being more patient offensively.
His squad did the rest. Kailua’s 11-0 league mark is its best in years.
“I’m not surprised,” Philbrick said. “My teammates, all the credit to them. They work their tails off at practice. We all just uplift each other. This is the most together team I’ve been on all my life.”
Kahuku’s best on-ball defender? Westmoreland-Vendiola, who had limited Philbrick to eight points in the first half. After the game, Westmoreland-Vendiola and his teammates celebrated senior-night festivities and did their best to enjoy the company of family and friends during their post-game meal. But there wasn’t a dry eye in the vicinity.
Some of Kahuku’s athletes, including Leonard Ah You (12 points, nine rebounds), had not experienced defeat since the fall of 2020 — on the gridiron. The 2020-21 winter season was cancelled, and when football picked back up last fall, Kahuku went unbeaten en route to the Open Division state title — with Ah You as Kahuku’s preeminent pass rusher.
The OIA playoffs begin next week. Kahuku will bounce back, coach Brandyn Akana said.
“We’ve got the playoffs now,” Akana said. “This will be good for us.”