King Kekaulike Boys Clinch First MIL Basketball Title
By Rodney S. Yap
Late in the game Thursday night, King Kekaulike High School boys basketball coach Bill Naylor called a timeout to recalibrate the ball-handling duties.
A frustrated Naylor just watched Baldwin surge to within two points, 38-36, with 1 minute, 43 seconds left in the game.
In the huddle on courtside, Naylor reminded point guard Jansen Agapay of his responsibility to bring the ball up court in clutch situations.
On the next trip down, Agapay not only dibble past the timeline, but weaved through the Baldwin defense for a layup and foul with 1:29 remaining. Agapay made the ensuing free throw to complete the 3-point play, which rebuilt the Upcountry school’s lead, 41-36.
Baldwin did not score the rest of the way and King Kekaulike center Jacob Havron sank the front end of a 1-and-1 with 46 seconds to play, sealing a 42-36 win on the home court of the defending Maui Interscholastic League champion Bears.
The win extended King Kekaulike’s unbeaten streak to 10 and marked the school’s first-ever Division I boys regular-season basketball crown. With the title comes the MIL’s seeded berth to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association’s state tournament on Oahu, Feb. 20-23.
“Down the stretch we hit a couple of good shots and we made our free throws,” said Naylor. “We knew this was going to be a tough game.”
King Kekaulike sophomore Chase Iwata-Bartelme had a game-high 17 points, including 11 in the second quarter. Havron added 12 points and eight rebounds, while Agapay finished with 10, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter that gave Na Alii a 34-27 cushion.
“As a team I thought we bonded well and had good chemistry,” said Iwata-Bartelme. “It feels good to come here and do what we came to do.”
Without the clutch backcourt play of Agapay and Iwata-Bartelme down the stretch things might have unraveled in favor of Baldwin.
“They both really work hard at handling the ball, but the point of the matter is when they were really young kids, Jansen would give the ball to Chase and let Chase bring it up the floor. But with Jansen’s quickness, he should have the ball more.
“I’m calling to get the ball to Jansen and Jansen ran away from Chase, and that’s what bother me. We were lucky they came down and threw the ball away. So during the timeout I told him he has to have the ball in his hands.”
Naylor said he relies on Iwata-Bartelme for offense when the team needs a basket.
“I want Chase to have the ball because he makes shots for us, but I need my point guard to be able to penetrate and get something going and to create for everybody else. And he did that, he got that nice layup in the end that put us up six points and that was huge.”
Baldwin’s Jeremiah Badillo picked Iwata-Bartelme’s pocket near midcourt and converted the turnover into a layup at the other end. Prior to Badillo’s basket, Baldwin’s Bradley Bowlin buried a jumper and just like that the Bears were on the threshold of avenging their 53-51 first-round loss to Na Alii.
Iwata-Bartelme said: “When he (Agapay) passed me the ball he told me to take it up, and then coach said to get it across (the half-court stripe), so I got it across, but he (Badillo) just came at me . . . it was a good play and he plays good defense.”
King Kekaulike led 9-6 after the first quarter and 22-20 at halftime.
Bowlin and sophomore guard Kody Takushi each had seven points for Baldwin.
Naylor did not hesitate to call timeout when he felt a need to switch things up on the Bears.
“I wanted to catch them off guard and do something, but I didn’t want to rush and make silly mistakes. A lot of times the faster the defense goes the faster the offense thinks it has to go. They were pressuring us hard and we have to slow down.
We tried to switch it up defensively from a zone to a man-to-man, to zone, to try and throw them off a little bit. It was just one of those games and we were lucky to come out on top.”
King Kekaulike plays at Lahainaluna on Jan. 31 and at Kamehameha Maui on Feb. 2. The MIL Tournament follows at the Lahaina Civic Center, Feb. 6-9.
Meanwhile, Naylor said his message to his players will stay the same.
“My message to the team has not changed. It’s about taking one game at a time. The record we have so far means absolutely nothing. We’re 0-0 when we play our next game against Lahainaluna next Thursday. . . . Sometimes you let down. But if you want to be a winner at anything, you have to give all you’ve got, all the time, and that’s what we have to do.”
In other boys basketball games:
KAMEHAMEHA MAUI 56, LAHAINALUNA 52
Down by 17 points to start the fourth quarter, 43-26, the Lunas stormed back with a furious rally led by the 3-point shooting of Jake Francis. A 3-point play by Emil Cariaga in the final two minutes cut the Warriors’ lead to two with about a minute left in the game. to brught the Lunas to within two points with about a minute left.
But that was as close as the visiting team would get as Kamehameha Maui hit its free throws down the stretch. The Warriors were led by Keawe Rindlisbacher’s 12 points and Kolby Ah Sau had 11.
Cariaga led the Lunas with 15 and Cyrus Kama added 13.