Sometimes it’s best not to clap.
Samuta Avea learned this on Wednesday night during Kahuku’s 87-45 quarterfinal victory over Kalaheo at the Snapple/HHSAA Boys Basketball State Championships. The Red Raiders zoomed to a 13-0 lead and dominated all the way through. There was enough competitiveness and trash talking coming from Kalaheo, though, to stir up Avea. The 6-foot-6 senior responded by clapping hard — very hard — when Kalaheo was whistled for a foul during the second quarter.
An official warned him not to do it again. The clapping was somewhat near the face of a Kalaheo player. Not long after that, another whistle, and Avea clapped very hard again after teammate Kesi Ah-Hoy drew contact and went to the free-throw line. This time, the official meted out a technical foul to Avea.
“I didn’t have a good first half,” said the versatile swingman, who was busy nonetheless with two points, four rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block before intermission. “I came out with energy after halftime.”
Boy, did he ever. By the end of the third quarter, Avea threw down three monster dunks to bring Kahuku fans to their feet in McKinley Student Council Gymnasium. Two of them were on lobs from Jessiya Villa. One of those came on an inbounds play that Kahuku has used all season, and this was a one-handed jam that sent the decibel level near maximum tolerance.
Though HHSAA rules are not posted, in OIA regular-season play, a player who receives two technical fouls is ejected and must serve a mandatory one-game suspension. The rule isn’t so clear in state-tourney play.
“I didn’t even think about that,” he said.
A top-seeded Kahuku team can get by almost every in-state foe without one of their key players. But the Red Raiders face defending state champion ‘Iolani on Thursday in the semifinals at McKinley. Going at the Raiders and 6-9 center Hugh Hogland without their decibel-raising dunker/fastbreak dime dropper/any-position-defender would never be recommended.
His third quarter, which included 13 of his 15 points, came with Kahuku comfortably ahead. The mantra for Kahuku, though, has been about starting each half with explosiveness. Intensity. Relentless defense. Coach Brandyn Akana has preached this day after day at practice and considers the level of intensity in Thomas Walker Gymnasium to be a consistently and constantly excellent way to prepare for game action.
It is working. Now, if he can get Avea to do something else besides clap hard — a form of sarcasm, possibly — when trash-talking opponents get their due, all Red Raider fans might have one less thing to worry about. Maybe shake a teammate’s hand. Or press palms and roll them together diabolically. Perhaps clap very, very softly. Or, or maybe just look at the bench and enjoy these waning, final moments together. After all, life is much too short to dwell on the past, and so much is at stake in the near future.