Top Performers
Ka Makani, Patriots banking on Hunt, Baptiste for leadership

Male Athlete of the Week: Conor Hunt, Hawaii Prep soccer
Conor Hunt had himself one heck of a week for the Hawaii Prep boys soccer team.

In a span of three days, the 5-foot-9 senior netted all three of his team's goals in wins over Makua Lani and Hilo to open the Big Island Interscholastic Federation portion of their schedule.

However, Hunt helped HPA finish out the preseason with a bang the weekend prior, when he put away the clinching penalty kick in a thrilling win over rival Kamehameha-Hawaii in the title game of the Ka Makani Classic.

"He's the guy I'll put in the most pressure situation, absolutely, and technically he's probably one of the best player on the field with his ball control," HPA second-year coach James Berry said of Hunt.

"What always impresses me with Conor is how calm he is. Whether he's under pressure, offensively or defensively, players on him, or being behind in the score, he's super calm under pressure, almost to the point where you want him to be a little more stressed out — but he's not — he handles it very well," Berry said.

Just four days after the Ka Makani Classic, HPA's conditioning was put to the test by Makua Lani Wednesday. In a match that was played at 3 p.m. at the Old Kona Airport Park, Hunt tallied a pair of late goals to overcome an early deficit in the 2-1 win over the Lions, who Berry predicted to be the team to beat in the BIIF's Division II ranks this season.

"The win at Makua Lani was big," Berry said. "The boys were tired and sore from our tournament and it was our first game into our division against the team I expected to be the one to watch, so it was a good result for us both mentally and in the standings as well."

HPA found itself on the other side of the island Saturday for a road game against Division-I Hilo. Hunt scored the lone goal of the contest in the first half, off an assist from Noah Balaam.

"Against Hilo he scored on the volley, he got the top half of the ball and drove it down and there are very few kids that can keep calm and execute a shot like that in that situation," said Berry, who cited Hunt's background in futsal.

"I think that carries over onto the soccer pitch and so in tight spaces he's almost like a magician on the ball."

Hunt, who plays either high in the central midfield or as a low forward, is in his third season on the varsity team and second as a starter. He was a sophomore when HPA shared the D1 state title with Baldwin in 2017. He earned All-Hawaii Honorable Mention as a junior last year and is one of three senior captains on this year's squad.

"Conor is probably, for the incoming players and the returning players, the most recognized from last year's group, so having him there brings consistency and familiarity from last year, which is super big for us and he handles it great. He's humble, he's always working hard and he's super calm, which in turn keeps the other kids calm as well," Berry said.

Berry said that while Hunt is "always central and on offense as much as possible," that doesn't mean he won't see him elsewhere.

"He played in the (Ka Makani Classic) where we needed him to. We dropped him to the back line, no questions (on his part), no rolling eyes. We moved him somewhere else later, no rolling eyes — he just gets the job done," Berry said. "You ask him to do get things done in practice, he gets it done and he's respected so when he talks, the boys listen and they do what he asks."

After graduating 13 seniors from last year's squad, HPA dropped back down to D2 this season, where it will contend with Makua Lani and KS-Hawaii for the league's two berths for February's state tournament at Waipio Peninsula Soccer Complex.  

"We're a school of about 400 kids and at most I may cut two or three kids to make a team, but you never know what you're going to get. We graduated 13 players, of those nine were starters and we were looking at 10 players returning, so to say that we could go to Oahu and compete in D1 was unrealistic at the time," Berry said.

However, HPA got a few additions to this year's team that Berry expect to make instant impacts. Among them are senior transfers Daniel Jose Vidal Gayoso, a striker from Spain, and Grayson Phillips, a center-back and son of the new headmaster at HPA. Also, Hunt's younger brother, Mason, a sophomore midfielder, and a quartet of freshmen that Berry is high on will further help the rebuild. Senior Zane Willman will anchor the defense in his second season as the starting goalkeeper.

"The team is doing well and Conor is a pivotal part of this. At trainings he's always one of the first there, always one of the last to leave, so he doesn't take his position for granted. He understands that everyone's got to their part and he leads by example," Berry said. "The team is starting to jell and play together in the system we're looking for, but it doesn't matter the lineup, Conor is in there and it's nice to have him pull and push the younger players around and say, ‘this is what we're doing.' He's an absolute character; I wish I had 10 more of him."

Hunt also excelled as both the placekicker and punter for HPA during the recently-completed football season.

"Someone will snatch him up in college for smacking a football over a soccer both, but he does both and we understand that. We've offered him time to make sure he gets that technique right and take that time, but he doesn't. He'll do it on his own time and stay through soccer practices and do his football stuff on his own time," Berry said.

Hunt and Ka Makani (2-0) continue league play when they host Keaau Saturday at 2 p.m.

Female Athlete of the Week: Hooliiaiesu Baptiste, Christian Academy basketball
Keeping Hooliiaiesu Baptiste motivated is not something that Christian Academy girls basketball coach Tracy Pagud has to worry about.

Baptiste, who goes by the nickname "Hooli," is a fourth-year varsity player and second-year starter. The 5-foot-5 forward is one of two seniors for the Patriots this season and their lone captain.

"I usually have two captains, but we designated her as our only captain this year and she's really taken up the responsibilities from last year's team and taken that into this year and I've given her that leeway as a senior, but she's very humble and very conscious of how she plays for her teammates," said Pagud, who also doubles as athletic director at the small private school on Red Hill.

Baptiste helped Christian Academy open up Interscholastic League of Honolulu play with a 36-24 win over La Pietra last Tuesday. She scored a game-high 19 points to lead all scorers.

"At first she started from the outside and didn't hit as consistently from the outside, but most of her points were taken in on drives to the basket, little short five-foot layups, but she also got some points off turnovers," said Pagud, whose team turned a one-point halftime lead into a 10-point advantage after three quarters.

Baptiste had a big hand in the strong second-half effort by the Patriots.

"We were kind of lackadaisical in the beginning and we needed leadership, so I spoke to her and told her, ‘we need you out there to be more active and more into the flow of the game,' but in the third and fourth quarters, that's when she turned it on and the third quarter was probably when she (scored) most of her points," Pagud said. "She went to the basket, fought for rebounds, got three-point plays, played good defense and we were only six deep because we didn't have our freshmen, so she had to pretty much play the whole game without rest, so after that talk we had she was able to turn it on and recognize that her leadership was needed."

Pagud said that Baptiste's strength offensively is from 10 feet and in, however, she has shown a great deal of improvement in her shooting from 10 to 15 feet out.

"She worked a lot in the offseason and has become really solid in that range," Pagud said.

Baptiste shot 5 of 7 from the free-throw line in the win over La Pietra — another area where she has put in the work to become more consistent.

"Free throws at first she was kind of hit and miss, but now she's really developed into a pretty good free-throw shooter and she goes to the line quite a bit," Pagud noted.

Not to be overlooked is Baptiste's importance on the defensive end of the floor.

"She's kind of like a general in the sense that she aligns people and makes sure that the defense is in position and with four freshmen moving up from the intermediate (team), she's taken it upon herself out there to be the leader and know where they need to be as far as positioning and so forth," Pagud said.

That was exactly what Baptiste did Monday night in a 36-29 win over Hawaiian Mission. Although she finished with just four points, Pagud said Baptiste continued to do "all the little things to keep the whole team together.

"Just making sure that was our defense was solid out there," Pagud said. "She got into foul trouble so she sat most of the third quarter, but Joy Luna (17 points) picked up a lot of the slack when Hooli was out. Still, in my opinion, Hooli did a lot of the intangible things — which doesn't overshadow what Joy did — but when it got close and she eventually fouled out, she got even more vocal with the girls (while) on the bench."

That isn't exactly typical of Baptiste, Pagud said.

"She brings a very silent, quiet game to her — she's not one of the more vocal players — but she's very silent and she's consistent in a lot of the fundamentals that she has on the court. She puts her teammates first before she takes any type of accolades and a lot of responsibility has been put on her as far as bringing the team together, but she's well liked by all of her teammates, she's pretty well-rounded and she's very intelligent."

Pagud recalled a self-assessment by Baptiste following the completion of last season.

"In the offseason she made it a point to me that she wanted to get better and she was determined to get better, so she worked on her game in the offseason and it really kind of paid off — especially her conditioning. That's one of the things she recognized was one of her weaknesses; her conditioning was not as strong as she thought it was, but she's willing to work hard and correct those weaknesses and be stronger," Pagud said.

The goal for Baptiste and the Patriots is clear: win a third consecutive ILH D3 title, but it goes beyond that.

In the ILH postseason format, the D3 champion earns a spot in the league's D2 tournament, which a chance to qualify for the state tournament — an achievement Christian Academy has yet to achieve.

"She's been on back-to-back (D3) championship teams and she's motivated to work even harder and push her teammates to try to put a third title together and then try to get (further) in the D2 plays and possibly make a state berth and with her being a senior now, I think that is one of the bigger motivating factors that she has," Pagud said.

During Pagud's sophomore season, the Patriots lost to University Lab in the first round of the D2 tournament. Last year, they toppled St. Andrew's Priory in their tournament-opener before falling to Saint Francis with a state-tournament berth on the line.

"It was sad because Hooli got hurt against St. Andrew's, she twisted her ankle and wasn't able to start or play most of the Saint Francis game," Pagud explained. "While she was sitting on the bench nursing an ankle injury, she wanted to go in, so she went in (after) halftime, but it was just too little, too late. I think her presence out there would have made a difference, but she had some misfortune with the injury."

Pagud is hoping that his team — and Baptiste — will get their shot at redemption this season.

"Since I became the AD and head coach the main goal was to get a state berth for a small school, so winning the D3 championship was great, but it wasn't the ultimate goal. We're trying to get our game better as a team and hopefully we'll have some fortunate with her out there without that injury so that we can at least put our best foot forward," said Pagud, whose height-challenged roster is made up of two seniors, three juniors and four freshman.

"Everybody is kind of 5-2 or around there, although we do have one player who is 5-6, so our team understands that we're undersized, but we're trying to do the other small things — no pun intended — to win games against bigger teams. We always seem to be the underdogs in terms of height, but we've been in battles and our stature is small, but our spirit is big," Pagud said. "These girls will fight to the end and Hooli is a big part of it as a leader, but she's also very caring about her teammates and just overall an all-around excellent student-athlete."

Baptiste and the Patriots (2-0) continue league play against St. Andrew's Thursday and at La Pietra Saturday.

Kiai Apele, Waiakea — Scored 20 points in a win over Waiaphu

Joshua Balais, Radford — Scored 17 points in a win over Westside Christian

Elijah Blankenship, Waiakea — Scored 19 points in a loss to Punahou

Oscar Cheng, Kahuku — Scored 21 points with four rebounds, one assist, one steal and a block in a win over Campbell and scored 12 points with 17 rebounds, four assists and three steals in a win over Saint Louis

Braden Defries, Kamehameha — Scored 18 points on six 3-pointers in a win over Kaimuki

Bryce Forbes, Damien — Scored 16 points, including four 3-pointers, in a win over Nanakuli

Therial Grover, Radford — Scored 17 points in a loss to Salem Academy

Ellice Kapihe, Kamehameha — Scored 15 points with 10 rebounds, two assists, one steal and a block in a win over Baldwin

Andrew Kobayashi, Punahou — Scored 19 points, including three 3-pointers, in a win over Kailua

Halelu Kuamoo-Castro, Nanakuli — Scored 16 points, including three 3-pointers, in a loss to Damien

Zelston Militante, Nanakuli — Scored 22 points in a loss to Damien

Kordel Ng, Kamehameha — Scored 16 points with five assists, three steals and a rebound in a win over Campbell, scored 21 points, including four 3-pointers, with five assists, four steals and a rebound in a win over Baldwin and scored 16 points in a win over Punahou

Nainoa Peters, Kailua — Scored 18 points in a loss to Punahou

Kaimana Preza, Campbell — Scored 22 points in a loss to Kamehameha and scored 18 points in a loss to Roosevelt

Nikolas Robben, Maryknoll — Scored 18 points, including four 3-pointers, with five rebounds, four assists and a steal in a win over Kahuku

Howard Robert, Kealakehe — Scored 21 points in a loss to Punahou II

Damon Romero, Pahoa — Scored 16 points with three rebounds, three steals, two assists and one block in a win over Parker

Kuikana Ross, Baldwin — Scored 17 points in a win over Roosevelt and scored 28 points, including four 3-pointers, with four rebounds, one assist and a steal in a loss to Kamehameha

Keegan Scanlan, Waiakea — Scored 19 points in a win over Waipahu

Christmas Togiai, Kamehameha — Scored 16 points with two assists, two steals, one rebound and a block in a win over Campbell

Deltha Viena, Pearl City — Scored 18 points in a win over Le Jardin

Drake Watanabe, Roosevelt — Scored 22 points, including four 3-pointers, in a win over Honokaa, scored 23 points, including four 3-pointers, in a loss to Baldwin and scored 26 points, including 10-of-10 shooting on free throws, in a win over Campbell

Aloha Akaka, Maryknoll — Scored 16 points with 10 steals, three rebounds and a block in a win over Sacred Hearts

Abigail Akamine, Lahainaluna — Scored 19 points in a win over Baldwin

Chloe Bryant, Hawaiian Mission — Scored 15 points in a loss to Lanai

Victoria Canencia, Leilehua — Scored 14 points with seven rebounds, four assists and two steals in a win over Kapolei

Taylor Eldredge, Lahainaluna — Scored 16 points in a win over Baldwin

Jaydan Fullum, Island Pacific — Scored 14 points in a loss to St. Andrew's

Destiny Hicks, Nanakuli — Scored 15 points in a win over Campbell

Namahana Kaeo-Young, Kekaulike — Scored 18 points in a win over Maui

Mahina Kaleiheana-Erickson, Sacred Hearts — Scored 14 points with three rebounds, one assist and a steal in a loss to Maryknoll

Caiyle Kaupu, Konawaena — Scored 22 points in a win over Kamehameha-Maui

Lily Koki, Maryknoll — Scored 18 points, including five 3-pointers, with seven rebounds in a win over Sacred Hearts

Reece McMurray, Kailua — Scored 16 points with five assists in a win over Anuenue

Te'Hiwa Medeiros, Sacred Hearts — Scored 16 points with three rebounds, two steals and one assist in a win over Roosevelt

Ledjan Pahukoa, Kekaulike — Scored 23 points, including four 3-pointers, in a win over Maui

Lauren Poniatowski, Campbell — Scored 20 points in a loss to Nanakuli

Olivia Reed, St. Andrew's — Scored 14 points in a win over La Pietra

Princess Samuelu, McKinley — Scored 16 points with six rebounds in a win over Kohala

Kayla Santos, Hawaiian Mission — Scored 20 points in a loss to Lanai, scored 14 points in a win over Island Pacific

Manutagi Seei, Radford — Scored 14 points in a win over Mililani

Jovi Wahinekapu Lefotu, Iolani — Scored 18 points in a win over Punahou

Destynee Williams, Waiakea — Scored 14 points in a win over Hawaii Prep

Jonah Cicatko, Kahuku — Scored two goals in a win over Roosevelt

John Grover, Waiakea — Scored two goals in a win over Konawaena and scored four goals in a win over Kau

Kyler Halvorsen, Kaiser — Scored four goals in a win over Farrington

Tommy Mascaro-Keahi, Kapolei — Scored five goals in a win over Waialua and scored five goals in a win over Nanakuli

Riley Preston, Kohala — Scored three goals in a win over Keaau

Ricky Quebral, Kailua — Scored two goals in a win over Castle

Riley Tamanaha, Waiakea — Scored three goals in a win over Kau

Taiyo Thom, Kealakehe — Scored the lone goal in a win over Kamehameha-Hawaii

Christopher TenBroeke, Campbell — Scored two goals in a win over Leilehua

Kaitlin Beatty, Waiakea — Scored three goals in a win over Kau

Chenoa Frederick, Kamehameha-Hawaii — Scored two goals in a tie against Kealakehe

Hiilani Gaspar-Bright, Castle — Scored three goals in a win over Roosevelt

Taylor Hayes, Moanalua — Scored three goals in a win over Kalaheo

Wai Kalauokaaea-Kahele, Hilo — Scored three goals in a win over Keaau

Robyn Laquesta, Waialua — Scored the lone goal in a win over Nanakuli

Faith Lee, PAC-5 — Scored four goals in a win over Sacred Hearts

Alyssa Leong, Kaiser — Scored three goals in a win over Kalaheo

Nanea Moke-Rabang, Hilo — Scored three goals in a win over Keaau

Isabella Police, Hawaii Prep — Scored two goals in a win over Hilo

Siarra May Sandobal, Moanalua — Scored three goals in a win over Kalaheo

Reach Kalani Takase at [email protected].



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