The kookiness, zaniness and flat-out heartbreak is real across the state this week — just ask Punahou and Waiakea.
Konawaena, the fourth-place team in the BIIF, stunned first-place Waiakea 66-50 on Tuesday, eliminating the Warriors from title and state-berth contention. Waiakea was 10-1 during the regular season, but had no protection, and the playoff games were played at Kealakehe. Konawaena then lost to Kamehameha-Hawaii, which had earlier knocked Hilo out. KS-Hawaii and Konawaena will represent the BIIF at the D-I state tourney in two weeks.
On Oahu, Punahou finished third in the ILH standings and had a bye in the league tournament for the third and final state berth. Mid-Pacific outlasted ‘Iolani in the first playoff game to set up a matchup with Punahou on Thursday at Hemmeter Fieldhouse.
MPI left with a stunning 49-42 overtime win. The Owls (18-14) will play at No. 7 Damien on Saturday, 1 p.m. Damien eliminated Saint Louis on Thursday, which means the Damien-MPI winner will seal third place in this playoff tournament. The loser will be done for the season.
Fourth-ranked Punahou (18-11) was left unprotected with its regular-season status. In other sports, like baseball, the third-place team would play the second-round third-place team for that last state berth. Not in boys basketball this season. The best rewards went to first-place Kamehameha and runner-up Maryknoll, which locked up state berths and had byes deep into the tournament.
“I like that it rewards 1 and 2 automatically. I would be upset that it doesn’t protect third place,” MPI coach Robert Shklov said. “It’s better than it has been in the past.”
The ILH title is up for grabs. The Damien-MPI winner will meet Maryknoll. The winner of that game would then play Kamehameha for the league title in a staircase type of format. By contrast, ILH D-II girls had automatic berths for all three top finishers in the standings, and first-place MPI was the automatic champion. There was a playoff tourney for the fourth state berth.
Mid-Pacific’s run through the tournament has been a bit bittersweet for Shklov. He is a Punahou alum and coached for a time in the program under Darren Matsuda. When MPI beat ‘Iolani, it was a matchup of former MPI coach Ryan Hirata (an ‘Iolani graduate) and his former assistant, Shklov.
The Owls had to play a great game to beat Punahou on its home court.
“That was absolutely one of our best games, defensively. We haven’t played a great offensive game yet. But defensively I can’t ask much more to hold a Punahou team like that to 42 with overtime,” Shklov said.
Punahou and MPI experienced different trends through the regular season. The Owls struggled in the second half of the schedule, but found a way to regroup for the playoffs.
“These guys decided to unite and it became more clear. We have guys with the mentality of a warrior and it’s contagious,” Shklov said. “I think I have the best defensive player in the state with Elijah (Kahue-Parker). Kala (Nakaya) is one of the best rim protectors and Kaimana (Lapina) is amazing off the ball. Adonis (Espania) and Lucca (Kitashima) have been great on the ball. I bring Apollo (Espania) and James Smotherman off the bench.”
Lapina and Kahue-Parker scored 11 points each in the win at Punahou.
Another key factor: support.
“The senior night crowd against Saint Louis they gave us a lot of juice,” Shklov said of a regular-season closing win. “And we had that at Punahou. We had a couple hundred (fans). They’re so enthused and they believe in our guys. It’s an easy team to root for and that’s why they support them.”
Mid-Pacific is 7-6 in games played on an opponent’s home court. They are also 9-13 against Top 10 teams. Damien has defeated MPI three times in three tries: 63-40 at the ‘Iolani Classic, and 60-57 in OT and 75-57 during the regular season.