HBA, Kamehameha play home-and-home exhibition hoops series


The boys and girls of Kamehameha and Hawaii Baptist played some basketball this weekend.

No, it wasn't a game and certainly won't count toward any standings, but for a couple of hours it was a little bit of normal for both the Warriors and Eagles.

Officially dubbed a "basketball experience," the schools faced off against one another in a pair of doubleheaders Friday at Kamehameha's Kekuhaupio Gymnasium and again Saturday at Dan Liu Gym on the HBA campus.

"It was super fun, especially for not playing for so long it was very nice to get back out there," said Emi Wada, a junior guard for the Eagles.

Wada and the HBA girls lost both games against the Warriors: 44-32 on Friday and 52-46 Saturday — not that it mattered all that much.

"I actually think I was more excited to play (Saturday) because we already had played them so we knew what they had and I knew that we could hang with them," said Wada, who poured in a game-high 19 points in Saturday's loss.

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All three of Wada's made 3-pointers came in the fourth quarter, when she tallied 12 of her team's 19 points in the stanza.

"I think that we definitely could have won, but it's okay," said Wada, who shot 6 for 8 on free throws for the game.

Hayley Taka finished with 12 points as the only other HBA player to score in double-figures.

Kamehameha had three players score in double-figures. Camille Feary led the way with 13 points, Maddison Mangalao had 11 and Alize Pratt chipped in with 10 in the win for the Warriors.

The boys' game wasn't nearly as close, with Kamehameha — the reigning ILH Division I champion and state runner-up — pulling away from an undersized D2-HBA squad for a 60-26 win. The result was a similar one to Friday's 70-33 victory for the Warriors.

Still, the final scores were of little consequence.

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"I mean, they're a D1 team so we didn't exactly expect to win by a lot, or win, but it was a really good experience for us and at the end of the day we had a lot of fun and we learned a lot so it really helped us," said senior guard Enzo Mazulli, who scored five points in Saturday's loss for the Eagles.

HBA got eight points from Austin Fujikawa, six from Eli Shibuya, four from Connor Takemoto and three from Evan Yoshishige.

Neither team had a scorer finish in double-figures. Kamehameha was led by Kalai Smith and Isaiah Paekukui-Cockett, who had eight points apiece. Jha Spencer scored seven points and Cade Trujillo, Koa Kanoho and Reyn Asato each chipped in five points in the win.

HBA athletic director Deren Oshiro wasn't all that surprised by the final score, but he was certainly pleased with the end result.

"Every school is handling their basketball experience different and while Kamehameha has been scrimmaging for weeks, our teams just entered our phase four, so to speak. We just started going five-on-five and scrimmaging this week, so we really only had three days of even going five-on-five so it's kind of a sharp curve in terms of competition for us, but that's okay," said Oshiro, who has been working with Kamehameha associate athletic director Ed Paola to make the idea a reality.

"It's been a lot of work over the last two weeks for both Kamehameha and Hawaii Baptist, but a lot of support really institutionally from the top-down to try to make these games happen for our teams, so I think it's been something that's been very welcomed and appreciated by both school communities," Oshiro said.

In the days leading up to the games, all players, coaches and officials underwent COVID testing. Oshiro said testing was a non-negotiable piece to the conversation for the HBA administration.

"The feedback from the student-athletes has been all positive," he said.

The Interscholastic League of Honolulu and the Hawaii High School Athletic Association announced the cancelations of all winter sports last month.

"I think they were pleasantly surprised," Oshiro said of the initial reaction from his basketball players when hearing news of the exhibition games against Kamehameha. "They were excited and they were probably a little nervous, too."

Wada, for one, was grateful to say the least.

"Yeah, it was really nice actually (to play), but I really appreciate that they still took the proper procedures to keep us safe and everything," she said.

In addition to undergoing COVID testing, masks were mandatory for everyone in attendance — which was minimal — and had to be worn by players even during play.

"I mean, it is a little tough, but we just kind of did what we had to do," Mazulli said. "There's not really anything we can do about it so we just listened and played how they wanted us to play."

Players and coaches were spaced out across the bleachers behind their respective team benches. Athletic trainers could be seen issuing reminders to spread out team huddles during timeouts.

"It's just something we've got to get used to. I guess that is the norm now," Mazulli added.

There were no jump balls, as teams alternated possessions to start each quarter. The ball itself was frequently changed out and disinfected during most dead-ball stoppages. None of the games were open to the public for attendance, but all of them were streamed live online.

Oshiro was one of the few lucky individuals in attendance both days.

"I think both schools' players, coaches and the few staff members that were in the gym were just excited to hear the basketballs bouncing again and the sneakers squeaking again. Obviously it's different not having fans, but I think both teams were just thankful for the opportunity to compete," he said.  

Thankful was certainly the tone that Mazulli's comments carried Saturday. The past 11 months have surely puts things into perspective for him, Wada and the rest of their HBA teammates.

"Just to not take anything for granted because you never know what's going to happen," Mazzulli said. "It's really hard to train for something that you don't know is going to happen or not, so when I got back on the court it just reminded me to appreciate the things that are happening, especially with us being able to play in a game; that was really nice."

HBA will hold its homecoming celebration next week, with a pair of intrasquad games scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 27.

"We're trying to make it as special as we can for the kids — both weekends really — and give them a good experience, especially for the seniors," Oshiro said.

Reach Kalani Takase at [email protected].

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