It’s not just traveling on a budget.
It’s about family time for the Kohala Cowboys.
“We’re cooking breakfast right now,” coach Kihei Kapeliela said by phone at 9:30 a.m. “Our team mom and I are cooking French toast, bacon, eggs, rice and Portuguese sausage.”
There’s no cooking quite like home cooking, or least in a hotel equipped with a kitchen. Kohala has come a long way to play in the Snapple/HHSAA Boys Basketball Division II state tourney. With a 45-27 win over McKinley in the semifinals, the Cowboys are in the state title game for the first time since 2007. That game, coincidentally, was a loss to McKinley, then coached by Bob Morikuni.
Everything feels better when the wins keep coming. Breakfast with basketball brothers on game day. Championship game day. Kohala (16-3) has one of the smallest enrollments in the state, a district hit hard over the years by economic slowdowns and the departure of former players and their families. The ones who are still in Hawi, Kapaau and other towns still have their basketball tradition and pride.
“I think they’ve bought in, they’re about each other, and not about individual stats. Everybody does their part, or it’s not going to work,” said Kapeliela, who was a shooter on the run-and-gun Kohala squads of the 1990s. “It’s all about the team and they’re buying into it.”
O’shen Cazimero, their leading scorer, stepped up on defense when primary stopper Moses Emeliano got into early foul trouble. Cazimero locked onto McKinley’s dangerous scorer, Frank Camacho, who finished with 10 points on 4-for-14 shooting.
“O’shen takes pride in his defense. He and Moses compete about who’s the best defender,” Kapeliela said. “(Camacho) likes the high post, attack the basket. We kept denying him and tried to get other guys to try and beat us.”
On the other end, defenses have used box-and-one schemes on Cazimero. Kohala doesn’t peel him away from the action.
“When O’shen is boxed, I used him as a screen. They’re not going to switch and his man is not going to leave him,” Kapeliela said.
Cazimero finished with 16 points despite the coverage, going 4-for-9 from the field and 6-for-10 from the foul line. He also had six assists and two steals with just one turnover in 31 minutes. Molonai Emeliano, cousin of Moses, added 10 points. Kohala committed just nine turnovers and forced McKinley into 22 giveaways.
That negated a 2-for-22 night from the arc. That won’t likely work out well against a very hot Roosevelt team that had the lowest seed in the D-II bracket at No. 4. Kohala carried that underdog mentality into the big dance as an unseeded entry, the runner-up from the BIIF.
“I told my boys it doesn’t matter what seed we are. I like our chances because we play a different style than Oahu,” Kapeliela said.
The possibility of a BIIF D-II finals rematch with Hawaii Prep ended when Ka Makani lost to Roosevelt, 41-37.
“I expected HPA to win because they play a different style,” said Kapeliela, who got a good look at Roosevelt. “O’shen and Drake (Watanabe) play on a travel team. Logan (Quinlan) also plays with them, so they know each other pretty good.”
There will be no surprises.
“We don’t have a different game plan for Roosevelt. We’re going there and run,” Kapeliela said. “We know they rebound well.”
Meanwhile, breakfast was served.
“We’re trying to keep them calm, but they’re excited. They see the state runner-up banner (from ’07), and they’re heartbroken about not winning the BIIF banner this year,” Kapeliela said. “This is our biggest goal, and everyone is all in, from the starters to everyone on the bench.”
HHSAA Division II State Tournament
|1||Feb. 19||(1) Hawaii Prep vs. University||HPA, 63-46||Kaimuki|
|2||Feb. 19||(4) Roosevelt vs. Seabury Hall||Roos, 58-35||Kaimuki|
|3||Feb. 19||(2) Hanalani vs. McKinley||McK, 51-50||Kalani|
|4||Feb. 19||(3) Kauai vs. Kohala||Koh, 68-64||Kalani|
|5*||Feb. 20||University vs. Seabury Hall||SH, 45-31||Kalani|
|6*||Feb. 20||Hanalani vs. Kauai||Kauai, 48-46||Kalani|
|7||Feb. 20||Hawaii Prep vs. Roosevelt||Roos, 41-37||Kaimuki|
|8||Feb. 20||McKinley vs. Kohala||Koh, 45-27||Kaimuki|
|9*||Feb. 21||Seabury Hall vs. Kauai||Kauai, 52-49||Stan Sheriff Center|
|10*||Feb. 21||Hawaii Prep vs. McKinley||HPA, 52-39||Stan Sheriff Center|
|11||Feb. 21||Roosevelt vs. Kohala||Koh, 51-48||Stan Sheriff Center|
|* — consolation|