With Kalaheo clinging to a two-point lead, Mustang junior Ryan Pardini’s first priority was to keep the ball away from Kaiser sharpshooter Hunter Dias.
When Dias worked free enough to receive a pass, Pardini did the next best thing.
Dias had already drained six 3-pointers, the last with 31 seconds left in the fourth quarter to tie Friday’s OIA Division I playoff game. Kalaheo regained the lead on Andrew Kearney’s drive 8 seconds later and the Mustangs figured Kaiser would look to Dias for a possible go-ahead 3.
“Our main focus was not getting 30 (Dias) the ball,” Pardini said. “My defensive assignment was to guard him so I had to deny him.”
Dias used a screen to get open at the top of the key and took a pass only to have Pardini poke it away. Dias recovered to get a shot away only to have Pardini swoop by for a block.
After a Mustang free throw, Kaiser had another shot at a tying bucket, but the Cougars’ shot at the buzzer hit the rim and Kalaheo celebrated a 49-46 quarterfinal win.
“Kaiser’s a very good team, they shot the ball very well and it’s tough to beat a team twice in a row in less than two weeks,” Kalaheo coach Rob Pardini said, referring to the Mustangs’ 41-31 win over the Cougars on Jan. 25. “We were fortunate to get this win tonight and the boys had a solid end of the fourth quarter.”
Kearney, a 6-foot-4 senior, accounted for the bulk of the Kalaheo offense with 21 points, 10 coming in the final period.
Ryan Pardini finished with eight points, hitting two 3-pointers and coming up with a a key steal and score to give Kalaheo a 45-41 lead with 1:35 left
“I’m known as a 3-point shooter, but today coach, my dad, told me to play defense,” Ryan Pardini said. “He told me if I’m going to play the best defense of my life it’ll be today.”
With Friday’s quarterfinal win, Kalaheo clinched one of the OIA’s six spots in the Division I state tournament. But first up will be a date with OIA West top seed Kapolei in the league semifinals on Monday at McKinley.
The OIA East placed three teams in the tournament’s final four. Kahuku, the OIA East champ, faces McKinley in Monday’s first semifinal.
“The boys are very focused right now and they’re hungry,” said Rob Pardini, who led Kalaheo to the 2016 OIA title. “They definitely want to be in that position to battle for championship, and we’ll have a challenge on Monday.”
Kearney opened the scoring with a 3-pointer, but picked up two offensive fouls in the first quarter and another in the third. He managed to stay on the floor and answered Dias’ tying 3 with a drive down the lane and drew a blocking foul as his shot dropped through the net.
“He’s extremely good in space. He’s extremely good in transition, very athletic, great finisher,” Kaiser coach Branden Kawazoe said. “A tough cover and he single-handedly beat us down the stretch.”
Kaiser will play at Kailua in the fifth-place bracket on Monday with a state berth at stake. Dias nearly shot the Cougars — the OIA East’s sixth seed — into states with a 21-point performance including five 3-pointers in the second half. Cameron Ma added three more from long range and nine of Kaiser’s 16 field goals came from behind the arc.
Friday’s OIA Division I quarterfinal scores
Kahuku 73, Moanalua 61
McKinley 36, Leilehua 31
Kalaheo 49, Kaiser 46
Kapolei 63, Kailua 38
Semifinals at McKinley
Kahuku vs. McKinley, 5:50 p.m.
Kapolei vs. Kalaheo, 25 minutes after first game.
Moanalua at Leilehua, 6 p.m.
Kaiser at Kailua, 6 p.m.