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Kaimuki rallies from 20-point deficit to beat Aiea for OIA D-II title

Feb. 15—Daysen Lupica scored 19 points and Jeremiah White tallied 15 as Kaimuki rallied from a 20-point deficit for a 63-58 win over Aiea to capture the OIA Division II boys basketball championship at McKinley on Wednesday.

Daysen Lupica scored 19 points and Jeremiah White tallied 15 as Kaimuki rallied from a 20-point deficit for a 63-58 win over Aiea to capture the OIA Division II boys basketball championship at McKinley on Wednesday.

Harmon Sio was a major factor off the bench, scoring 11 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter for Kaimuki (14-12 overall ).

The two teams had already qualified for the upcoming Heide &Cook /HHSAA Division II State Championships. This is Kaimuki's third OIA D-II title in a three-year span under coach Greydon Espinda.

"Coach said keep our heads up. It's still a close game with the shot clock. He wanted us to play our best because first half, we didn't play that good, " Lupica said.

Center Iosefa Letuli had 16 rebounds and six points as the Bulldogs shut off the driving lanes in the second half.

"We just had to trust each other. After every board I get, I'm giving it to my teammates. I trust them, " Letuli said.

Sio, at 6 feet, 3 inches and 300 pounds, was practically unstoppable. The left-hander helped get the rally going with a corner 3.

"I feel great. When I shot the 3, it was a spark and it gave us energy to push more, " Sio said.

Shealand Kazama led Aiea (8-14 overall ) with 18 points, adding 10 rebounds. He and Santi Sarbeland combined for 10 offensive boards. Taylor Moku added 12 points and four steals, and Stefan Ognjanovic tallied 11 points, all in the first half as Aiea led 38-20 at the break.

"The season isn't over for us. We've just got to get back to practice. We learned a lot today, " Aiea coach Rob Godinez said. "We ran pretty good against tthem, got some steals. We got out to their shooters. We didn't get out to their shooters in the second half. We weren't communicating. We've got to stay poised and not rush shots."

The Bulldogs trailed 40-20, but rallied while Aiea went ice-cold from the field as trailed 46-39 entering the final quarter. White sat nearly the entire first half after picking up two early fouls. The senior scored 14 of his 15 points after the break.

"We can't cheat defensively. We've got to pay attention to him. Whenever he's in the game, he gets the attention of all five of our guys, " Godinez said. "When he's not in the game, we can focus on our attention on the other players."

Operating in the high post, White spun in the lane and scored to tie the game at 46 with 6 :01 to go.

Kaimuki took its first lead, 50-48, on two free throws by White with 4 :29 left. White lobbed the ball to Sio on the low post for a layup, and Sio triggered a fast break with a block and finished it with a layup on a pass from Regan Fritz-Betiru for a 54-49 lead.

Kazama sank two foul shots to cut Kaimuki's lead to four points, but ManDuy Pham got a free throw to tumble in, and after White made three more charity shots, the Bulldogs led 61-53 with 17.6 seconds left.

The Bulldogs finally put the game away on two foul shots by White with 6 seconds remaining.

Sitting White after the second foul was a calculated risk by Espinda.

"At some point we had to take the risk of trying to stop the bleeding, " he said. "At the half, I told them that we want to get it down to 10. We got it down to six, I believe, and it would've been more if we didn't miss our layups. Once we got the lead, we hung on to it."