Showdown for final D-II state berth pits ULS, HBA

HBA Eagle Ridge Wada (10) fought to the basket past Hanalani Royals Cristoffer Harrison on Friday. Steven Erler / Special to the Star-Advertiser

All of George Weeks’ experience has led up to this point.

The Hawaii Baptist boys basketball coach knows the ingredients in his kitchen well. This year’s Eagles do certain things very, very well. They also have certain limitations, and Weeks makes sure they emphasize their strengths. With a 42-34 win over Hanalani on Thursday night, HBA (15-12 overall) is now in the playoff final of the ILH’s second-place tourney. It is, for all intents and purposes, a state-tournament berth tourney, and University (13-10) will be waiting on Saturday afternoon in Klum Gym.

Max Wiemken will be a crucial playmaker. The 6-foot-3 senior had 20 points on 6-for-10 shooting against Hanalani, and also grabbed 10 rebounds. While HBA took its open 3’s — 4-for-19 from deep — it was discipline that sealed the win over a tall, athletic Hanalani squad. HBA built a 22-17 halftime lead into a 42-30 edge in the final quarter. It was 38-30, late in the third period, when Weeks had this four-guard offense spread the court. With Wiemken on the high post, as good a ballhandler as most in the backcourt, it was a daunting task for Hanalani. The Royals had six team fouls before the end of the third quarter.

HBA shot an adequate 5-for-9 from the foul line in the final 8 minutes. The Royals dwindled the lead down to six at one point, but the home team kept playing solid defense and made enough plays to stretch that lead to 42-30 with 1:17 remaining.

“Being consistent every game, we’re not a very consistent team,” Wiemken said. “We have good games and bad games. Shooting, some games were off. When we’re on, we’re on and we get the job done. Either way, we find a way and Coach always has a good game plan to help us win the game.”

The Eagles neutralized Hanalani’s height by snatching 13 offensive rebounds. In the third quarter, when they extended the lead, they grabbed four offensive boards. Tony Lucuab and Zach Qin came up with timely rebounds to give their team extra possessions.

“I’m not too surprised. It’s kind of been like that all season,” Wiemken said.

Thirteen extra possessions, along with a plus-seven in turnovers — Hanalani had 20 giveaways and HBA had 13 — is blueprint material for Weeks.

“In the first half, we were down in the rebounding department. We did much better job in the second half on 50-50 balls and also boxing out, and rebounding,” Weeks said. “It’s the third time we’re playing them. They had a great game plan and executed it pretty well. Our guys were resilient and managed to pull it out. It’s just one of those survive and advance kind of things. It was ugly at times, but we’ll take it. I’d prefer pretty and efficient, but if I have to choose, I’ll take ugly and efficient.”

Wiemken praised his teammates. As a team, HBA limited Hanalani to 13-for-36 shooting from the field.

“Oh man, our guys hustle their butts off. Brandon (Okazaki), Payton (Lee) and Joe (Fung), they’re going 100 percent on the defensive end. Me, I don’t know. Personally, I don’t think I do that as much as them. I owe the credit to them getting the ball to me,” he said.

Now the Eagles will meet University, a 54-33 winner over Le Jardin in the other semifinal at Dan Liu Gym. Leif Fautanu was impeccable with 21 points, 14 rebounds and was the hub of their attack.

“Yeah, Leif’s a big boy, but we’re going bang down low like I do all the time. We have a good game plan. We’re going to come in there and execute, and try our best.”

Fautanu, a 6-foot-2, 290-pound football lineman, signed with UNLV. When ULS defeated HBA early in the regular season, Wiemken was sidelined by an illness. In the rematch, HBA prevailed in overtime while Fautanu was busy at Aloha Stadium.

“I was at the Poly Bowl. I was keeping up online. I was surprised we got them into overtime,” he said. “Max is a great player. I grew up playing against him.”

The Junior Rainbows won the D-II state title in 2016 during Fautanu’s freshman season.

“That team was a little cocky,” he recalled. “They’re all up in college now. Our team is humble and they work hard at practice every day. As much as I score, I couldn’t do it without them.”

The game plan for HBA against Hanalani may also apply to ULS, perhaps with some tweaks. But going five out with Wiemken, trying to get Fautanu out of the key, is probably a given.

“The (gameplan) changes from game to game,” Weeks said. “It just depends on who we’re playing and who we’re focused on.”

HBA has been highly competitive, but in a rugged ILH D-II dominated by St. Francis and Damien in recent years, getting to the big dance has been difficult. Weeks’ focus was entirely on Hanalani. He had just one feeling after the game.

“Relieved. That’s about it,” he said. “We got a lot of work to do.”

ILH D-II state-tourney qualifiers
2018: Champion St. Francis, Damien. State champion: St. Francis.
2017: Champion St. Francis, Le Jardin. State champion: St. Francis.
2016: Champion St. Francis, University. State champion: University.
2015: Champion Hawaii Baptist, Damien. State champion: Kaiser.
2014: Champion St. Francis, Damien. State champion: Hawaii Prep.
2013: Champion St. Francis, University. State champion: St. Francis.
2012: Champion St. Francis, Hanalani. State champion: Kalaheo.
2011: Champion Island Pacific, University. State champion: Farrington.
2010: Champion University, AOP. State champion: Pahoa.
2009: Champion Hawaii Baptist, University, Hanalani, Word of Life. State champion: Kailua.
2008: Champion University, Hawaii Baptist. State champion: Farrington.


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