No. 5 Kailua, unranked University Lab head to Surfrider Classic final

Fresh off a 3-1 run at the Fear the Hop tournament in Arizona, Kailua has reached the final of the Surfrider Holiday Classic. Paul Honda/Star-Advertiser (Dec. 1, 2023)

The Junior Rainbows of University Lab School have all it takes to win basketball games.

The only question is, will there be enough left in the tank to beat Kailua on Saturday. ULS advanced to the title game of the Surfrider Holiday Classic with a 60-49 runaway win over No. 10 Campbell. The Jr. ‘Bows’ second win over the Sabers in a four-day span was a close game in the first half before they went on a 16-2 run before the break. ULS then opened the second half with a 14-0 run and expanded the lead to more than 20 points.

Trey Amrbozich led ULS with 22 points and Koa Laboy had 18 in another textbook performance.

“It comes from Coach Ryan (Tong) every day in practice, and we trust each other fully. We’re going to give 100-percent effort no matter what the score is,” Ambrozich said.

With the 6-7 Ambrozich flanked by 6-3 Laboy and 6-3 Alika Ahu, the ULS zone defense was tough to crack for the Sabers. ULS went roughly seven deep on Thursday and Friday.

“We had a lot of work in the off-season. Running, working out. Playing a lot of basketball,” Laboy said. “I feel good. I’m ready for tomorrow. I just love to play.”

In the other semifinal, the matchup of fifth-ranked teams tied in the Star-Advertiser coaches and media poll turned lopsided. Dylan Kunz got scorching hot from the perimeter with five 3-pointers and finished with 19 points in Kailua’s 58-30 win over Kamehameha. Center Noa Donnelly (16 points) and wing Maddox Pung (13) were solid,

“I just let him go crazy. If he’s hot like this, why stop him,” Donnelly said of Kunz.

Kunz has the green light, but also had a tough drive and kick to Pung for an open 3.

“Our chemistry is good. It’s a great team win. My teammates set us up pretty well,” Kunz said.

Donnelly hit a side-step elbow jumper over Wade.

“I’ll be honest. I didn’t think I was going to make that. They trust me more to handle the ball a tad bit more. Nothing other than that has changed,” Donnelly said.

The Surfriders were effective on drive-and-dish plays by their backcourt — even with Kamehameha’s 6-foot-9 junior, Kainoa Wade, patrolling the paint.

Surfriders coach Walter Marciel likes his team’s ball movement and shot selection.

“The shots we missed in the first quarter, they were all good shots. We weren’t forcing anything except maybe one shot over 6-9 Wade. What happens is, if we’re not hitting those shots we get stagnant and we’ve got no movement,” Marciel said. “That’s why I called that time out early just for us to get some movement. Second half, we started hitting. What I liked tonight was the sharing of the ball. There’s so attention on Maddox, and Noah was wide open and Maddox was dishing off to him for an easy 2. That’s what we want to get to this year. We want to get to multiple scorers and sharing of the ball.”

Kailua didn’t want Wade to get into any rhythm. He finished with 12 points.

“If he had an open shot, we were going to contest it, but we weren’t going to let him get a rebound off his shot,” Marciel said.

University, like Kailua, has height, length and playmakers across the floor.

“University is a good team. They’ve got some players. It should be a good game,” Marciel said.

In consolation play, Baldwin routed a cold-shooting Waipahu squad, 58-31, and Saint Louis rallied in the second half for a 57-31 win over Kohala. Saint Louis, the top-ranked team in the state, trailed 24-18 against the hot-shooting Cowboys. The Crusaders responded to Coach Dan Hale’s halftime talk with a resounding 39-2 run. Physical on-ball defense and tighter passing lanes turned Kohala’s upset hopes into a rough afternoon.

“For us in all of our runs, it’s defense that generated our offense. We seem to be getting back to that. We’re a work in progress and this tournament has been great. We’re facing good teams that are testing us in different ways. It’s all about getting ready for ILH season,” Hale said.

That defensive intensity also led to much more aggression on the offensive glass for Saint Louis.

“It’s the way we have to play. If we don’t play that way, then there’s a huge dropoff. Do we want to crank it up and make it hard for teams to score? They did a good job of that. They responded,” Hale said.

Junior guard Shancin Revuelto was a spark to the defense, limiting high-scoring Layden Kauka to six points. Kauka had scored 26 points in an opening-round loss to Campbell.

Pupu Sepulona, the returning All-State player of the year, led the Crusaders with 14 points.

“In the first half, we were still asleep. We weren’t playing our game. What changed in the second half, we had to adjust. We had to wake up and play aggressive, and know how to finish the game,” Sepulona said. “Layden is my boy. We always play against each other. I’ve gotten to know him real well. Shancin was in a different mode in the second half.”

Saint Louis’ loss to University on Thursday was a bit of a revelation, though the nucleus of ULS’ squad has been tough to beat since they were in middle school.

“That’s just a solid team no matter what level they’re in. They have everything. They’ve got inside, they’ve got outside. They shot lights out,” Hale said.

Baldwin, guided by interim head coach Jordan Helle, looked quick and fluid from start to finish. Helle, a former football and basketball standout for the Bears, is filling in for Cody Tesoro. He and his wife recently added a new baby to the family.

Friday’s scores
University 60, No. 10 Campbell 49
>> ULS: Trey Ambrozich 22, Koa Laboy 18. Cam: Miles Hornage 17.
ULS 16-4 run to end first half. 14-0 run to begin the second half.
No. 5 Kailua 58, No. 5 Kamehameha 30
>> Kai: Dylan Kunz 19 (5 treys), Noa Donnelly 16, Maddox Pung 13. KS: Kainoa Wade 12, Christian Togiai 10.
No. 1 Saint Louis 57, Kohala 31
>> STL: Pupu Sepulona 14, Keanu Meacham 10. Koh: Isaac Libron 8.
Cowboys led 24-18 at half. Crusaders get physical on defense, 39-2 run. They limit Layden Kauka to 6 pts.
Baldwin 58, Waipahu 32
>> Bal: Jayden Torres-Leeber 14, Dylan Kuia 11. Wai: Isaih Galisa 8.

Saturday’s games
No. 5 Kailua vs. University, championship, 7:30 p.m.
No. 5 Kamehameha vs. No. 10 Campbell, third place, 6 p.m.
No. 1 Saint Louis vs. Baldwin, fifth place, 4:30 p.m.
Waipahu vs. Kohala, 3 p.m.


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