Hawaiian Electric Game of the Week
Kapolei downs Mililani to capture OIA crown


 



KANEOHE — All five of Kapolei's previous losses in the title game of the Oahu Interscholastic Association Division I boys soccer tournament were at the hands of Mililani.

Saturday night was a different story.

Eric Aquino scored in the 24th minute to lift the Hurricanes to a 1-0 win over the previously-unbeaten Trojans and their first league crown since 2011 and third overall before a crowd of about 300 spectators at Castle.

Kapolei (11-0-2) got its first win over the Trojans (11-1-1) in an OIA championship game in six tries and is now one of just two Division I teams statewide without a loss (Baldwin).

"It's very satisfying. We've been there eight times and our five losses are all to them," Hurricanes co-head coach Ryan Lau said.

For the second time in three nights, Kapolei pitched a shut out against a team that had not suffered a loss this year. Thursday night, Garrison Lee scored the lone goal in a 1-0 semifinal win over Eastern Division top seed Kaiser. Saturday night, it was Aquino who played the role of goal scorer.

"I know he felt he could have done better against Kaiser and he wasn't utilized as much and what we told him was he had to mix it up, so I think he was not only looking to pinch in, but go out and be a little more creative in the types of runs he made off the ball," Lau said of Aquino, a sophomore midfielder.

Aquino's goal came on a right-footed shot from about 10 yards out, while he was surrounded by a trio of Mililani defenders after a give-and-go from Lee.

"During practice we work on pass and moving, so I took the perfect opportunity to have (Lee) go out wide, I passed it to him, ran in and I just had to make the play and put the ball in the net because at practice we practice ‘golden goal' mentality, so I wanted the goal and I wanted it for my team," Aquino said. "This is a team win and I'm just happy we made it this far."

It was Aquino's eighth goal of the year and first of the postseason.

"I think tonight, as you saw on the goal, he was able to create width, but yet combine and get inside," Lau said. "He was outstanding."

Early on, Mililani used sophomore fullback Kekoa Kuloloia to mark Kapolei junior forward Sean Yoshida, but went away from it after Aquino's goal.

"(Yoshida) one of their major playmakers, along with Sam (Wren) and Garrison (Lee), so we knew that we had to try to nullify them as best as possible, (but) once they got their goal they kind of sat back a little more, it felt like, and we had a little bit more room to work and possibly look to attack, so that was something that I thought changed once they got their goal," Trojans coach Steve McGehee said. "They knew what they had and they put the onus on us to try and get something."

Kapolei turned in a clean sheet on defense, holding Mililani without a goal for the first time this season.

Lau praised the effort of his center-backs Beau Meyer and Branden Wong.

"I don't know how many better center-backs there are in the state," Lau said. "They're both outstanding."

Not to be forgotten, Lau also credited outside-backs Noah Kolona and Andrew Ines.

"Noah and Andrew can hold their own on the wings and they're smart — they'll not only win the ball, but they will connect and keep it — and that's big (because) when you're playing Mililani, if your outside-backs are just kicking it out of bounds you're constantly giving them throw-ins," Lau said. "I thought they were good. They handled their own without double-teams, especially because the two of them aren't the tallest guys, so I'm proud of the back four and Jason Catron was outstanding in the goal."

Catron saved all six Mililani shots on goal, while Rusty Crowder stopped six shots for the Trojans.

McGehee said his team had its chances.

"I think our inability to connect passes really hurt us a little bit. The field is a little narrow and that doesn't help us at all, but at the end of the day, we still have to be able to execute and that's kind of where we let it down a little bit and not finishing the chances that we had," McGehee said. "We never got a lot of chances on them the last game, we didn't have a lot of chances this game, but the ones we did have we should have done better with."

The teams played to a 1-1 tie in their regular-season meeting at Kapolei on Dec. 13.

Mililani was seeking a 17th OIA title and its first since 2015. It is now 16-4 all time in league championship games.

"It was everything I expected it to be. We were on the short end of the stick today, but it was a tough game like I knew it would be and it's just unfortunate the results didn't come our way," McGehee said.

Three of Kapolei's five losses against Mililani in OIA title games were decided by one goal, including a 2-1 overtime loss in 2010.

"The other games were close and there were some bounces that didn't go our way here or there, but I think the biggest thing is this team has come around where it is about the team," Lau said. "This is our first OIA title game, or any title game, where we have a full allotment of players — nobody academically-ineligible, nobody injured — so that was great and you saw what happens when you have everybody and everybody is engaged and everybody is contributing. It's a total team effort; They've created a great brotherhood."

Both teams previously qualified for the state tournament in two weeks.



Reach Kalani Takase at [email protected].


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