It has been a long, long time since a Leilehua team walked onto Mililani’s campus and left with a blowout victory.
This wasn’t one of those, but the visiting Mules still prevailed. No. 9 Leilehua brought enough guile and heart to overcome two late rallies by Mililani for a resounding 50-49 win on Thursday night.
The go-ahead free throw by Jordan Ke-A with 10.5 seconds left broke a 49-all stalemate.
Mililani advanced the ball to midcourt and called time out. Coach Garrett Gabriel designed a play for Ethan Rudometkin, the Trojans’ best inside scorer, and his team executed the entry pass. Rudometkin’s 8-foot jump hook clanged off the iron, however, and time ran out for the resilient Trojans.
Mililani rebounds FT miss, time out :04.9, down 50-49. Ethan Rudometkin powers into the paint, misses 8-footer. Ball game, @MulesAthletics win OIA West. @HawaiiPrepWorld @MililaniTrojans pic.twitter.com/SUD50qEGCu
— Paul Honda (@PupulePaul) January 31, 2020
Leilehua closed OIA West play at a perfect 10-0 and Mililani finished 9-1. Davon Newman had 14 points and five rebounds, Lassell added nine points, and Aviel Palmer tallied eight points and seven boards. Kanoa Gibson led Mililani with 13 points, six rebounds and four steals, and sophomore Trey Lieb had 10 points.
Both teams head into the OIA Division I playoffs with plenty of hope and lots of video to learn from. The visitors got rattled in the final quarter, committing seven of their 16 turnovers. Coach Chad Townsend had his aggressive Mules spread the court to run some time off starting at the 5-minute mark.
“That’s a bad call on my part. As a coach, I don’t think we worked on it enough at practice,” Townsend said.
Leilehua’s mix of man-to-man defense and three-quarter zone pressure was effective, forcing the home team into 23 turnovers. When the Trojans pulled within 40-39, Leilehua ramped its defense up another notch and scored eight unanswered points, all in transition.
Mililani responded with a 10-0 run to take the lead, getting two free throws from by Koby Sison with 1:42 left. After hearing Leilehua’s vocal fans outcheer Mililani for three periods, it was the loyal Trojan faithful who roared.
But it was Ke-A who came up with the clutch steal and free throw. He caught an elbow to the head on the steal and was still a bit sore as he lined up at the charity stripe.
“He was fine. I was worried, but he’s a tough guy. He was just a little deer in the headlights because it was close game,” Townsend said.
Leilehua (16-5 overall) and Mililani (14-8) will both have a first-round bye in the playoffs. It will be a new season of sorts. The Mules and Trojans are one win away from qualifying for the state tournament.
“It feels nice. We told our guys now, we’re 0-0 now. Everybody’s even. Whoever comes out (of the opening round), they’re going to come at us with everything they’ve got. You saw like tonight, all it takes is a good night from one team,” Townsend said.