The most predictable thing about the BIIF boys basketball race is that it is… unpredictable.
The game of musical chairs continued on Saturday as Kohala stunned Waiakea 44-41 at Hisaoka Gymnasium. O’shen Cazimero pumped in 18 points and Jeffery Francisco tallied nine for the Cowboys in a game that had been originally scheduled two weeks ago. Weather conditions and a leaky roof at Hisaoka forced the postponement, but only whetted the appetite of Kohala’s fans.
“The crowd was crazy,” Kohala coach Kihei Kapeliela said after his team finished the meshed schedule with the best record, 11-1, in the BIIF.
Earlier in the week, Kohala went to Hawaii Prep and lost 69-59 at Castle Gymnasium. That ended a 10-game win streak to start the regular season for the Cowboys, a Division II program that plays a fully meshed schedule.
In his first season as head coach after a dozen years as an assistant, Kapeliela envisioned his team being flexible enough to win a halfcourt game at HPA. The host Ka Makani had a major edge at the foul line with 37 attempts to Kohala’s 17.
“HPA plays a slow game. We tried to speed up the game. We’re always in attack mode. We’re a lot smaller than HPA. We can’t play a halfcourt game,” Kapeliela said.
The schedule had favored the team in black and gold. Wins over D-I contenders Hilo (70-67) and Konawaena (58-44) were at Hisaoka, where fans like their mayo with their chili bowls and their Cowboys in non-stop run-and-gun mode.
“Believe it or not, our loss against HPA was a good loss. It was a reality check. The hunger I saw in their eyes after the loss. I knew they would be ready tonight,” Kapeliela said.
Now the BIIF D-II playoffs await. Two of the three best regular-season records come from D-II. But four of the five worst win-loss marks also reside in BIIF D-II. State-playoff berths appear to be there for the taking, but Kapeliela is wary. HPA has the tiebreaker edge with the head-to-head win over Kohala, so the Cowboys will host Pahoa, a team that kept it close before losing 67-57 during the regular season.
Hawaii Prep will host fourth-place Honokaa. HPA won at Honokaa last week, 56-42. In a scenario that is fan-friendly, but of no use to teams that finished higher in the standings, both D-II semifinal games will be played at Kealakehe. The final will also be at Kealakehe, on Wednesday.
The other predictable (usually) factor: home court advantage. On the massive Big Island, Kohala is as faraway a destination as most teams have to travel aside from Ka‘u. The Cowboys were 6-0 at home. Hawaii Prep was 5-1 on its home court, losing only to Waiakea (49-46). HPA also beat Hilo on the road (56-46).
In the BIIF D-I chase, Konawaena edged Kealakeke 30-27 on Saturday in a tiebreaker for the fourth and last playoff berth. The Wildcats will meet first-place Waiakea on Tuesday at Kealakehe’s gym. Hilo and Kamehameha-Hawaii will face off in the other semifinal.
In the OIA, Roosevelt (6-5) led the East and Nanakuli (6-4) topped the West to earn first-round byes. McKinley (5-6) poses the strongest threat among the rest of the pack. The Tigers will play Waialua and Kaimuki, which had a strong second half of the regular season, will travel to Waipahu.
Roosevelt will host the Waipahu-Kaimuki winner, and the McKinley-Waialua victor will go to Nanakuli.