HHSAA Boys Basketball
Maui Prep pulls away from Kaimuki to claim first-ever state crown


  



Sat, Feb 26, 2022 @ Blaisdell


Final 1 2 3 4  
Kaimuki (9-4, 13-5) 15 451135
Maui Prep (9-0, 17-0) 14 17 15 1965
J. Falk 17 pts  3 3pm  2/2 FTs
R. Fritz-Betiru 15 pts  1 3pm  0/2 FTs
D. Triplett 8 tot  1 off  7 def
K. Renton 4 tot  1 off  3 def
D. Triplett 16 ast
M. Cleveland 16 ast

For the first time in 40 years, the koa trophy is coming back to the Valley Isle.

The Maui Prep Academy boys basketball team brought home the school's first-ever team state crown in any sport Saturday night with a 65-35 win over Kaimuki in the title game of the Heide & Cook Division II Boys Basketball Championships at the Neal S. Blaisdell Arena.

Senior Drew Triplett was in the driver's seat for Na Pueo, recording 16 assists and scoring 10 points to help Maui Prep complete an undefeated season and bring home the Maui Interscholastic League's first state crown since Lahainaluna won the Division A state title in 1982.

"It means a lot to bring it back to the school," said Triplett, who joined the program in its first-ever varsity season three years ago.

"They've been behind us since there was a basketball program that started as a varsity team my sophomore year. They've been behind us the whole way. It feels good to bring it back to not only our school, but Maui as well."

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Triplett was one of four players that finished in double figures for Maui Prep. Jimmy Falk notched a game-high 17 points on 6-for-8 shooting and three 3-pointers while Levi Basurto and Dylan Falk each scored 12 points to round out Na Pueo's top scorers.

Na Pueo ended up winning the game decisively by 30 points, but it wasn't so clear cut to start the contest. The Bulldogs led by as many as 11-4 in the first quarter and took a 15-14 lead into the second period.

The early deficit didn't faze the team, Triplett said. He noted that the team was down 17-10 to Kapaa in the quarterfinals and had played in a summer tournament in Houston were they were trailing quite a bit.

"We knew how to fight back, we had the mental fortitude to be able to rally from deficits," said Triplett.

"Once we got a lead and started to get into our groove, it was just following from there and we were confident in our abilities."

It started with Na Pueo's defense. Kaimuki shot 7-for-14 from the field in the first quarter, but just converted on 2 of 10 shot attempts in the second quarter. The Bulldogs' entry passes around the painted area was also limited by Maui Prep's defenders.

"Our game plan was to hunker down defensively and get in the gaps," said Maui Prep co-coach Cheyne De La Garza. "I think they just cam out and were a little excited. They were pressing up a little bit so it was just a matter of getting into the groove and doing things that we were supposed to do."

Kaimuki's shots were also well contested. Unlike the opening period, bank shots were not finding the bottom of the net and long-ranged shots often were short and bounced off the front of the rim. Maui Prep also prevented the Bulldogs from driving it to the rim, which limited free throw opportunities for Kaimuki, who had just two free throw attempts all night.

HHSAA ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM - DIVISION II 

O’Shen Cazimero, Kohala
Jimmy Falk, Maui Preparatory
Jeremiah White, Kaimuki
La’akea Kauka, Kohala
Dylan Falk, Maui Preparatory

Most Outstanding Player: Drew Triplett, Maui Preparatory

"We take pride on our defense and just being able to stay in front," said Triplett. "We had all our guys and we knew everyone else had our backs if they got past us."

Kaimuki's full-court press and half-court trap gave Na Pueo fits early, but the steadiness and poise of Triplett unlocked the code down the stretch. A 9-0 run jumpstarted by the Maui Prep senior gave the Na Pueo the lead for good to start the second quarter.

Triplett's pass to Jimmy Falk put Maui Prep ahead 14 seconds into the second stanza. The lead extended when Triplett grabbed a rebound and got it up ahead to a streaking Koenig Biegel before Kaimuki could set up the press. Triplett then found Jimmy Falk for an open 3-pointer on the left wing before scoring on a fast break basket to give Na Pueo a 23-15 lead midway through the quarter.

Kaimuki started to get some points on the board after the initial surge, but back-to-back triples by the Falk brothers off of cross court passes by Triplett pushed Maui Prep's lead to double digits, 29-19.

Triplett said the Falk brothers' shooting ability has improved tremendously over the past couple of years.

"They've grown a lot since sophomore year when I first got here. They've worked on their shot a lot and that didn't just come naturally. They've been in the gym for hours and hours getting up thousands of shots. I trust them really well. They were shooting the ball really well all season and I just love being able to give it to them and knock down shots."

Biegel and Emerson Flores also registered 3-pointers for Na Pueo, who shot 8-for-18 from distance.

"That's the beauty of our team, we got multiple guys, multiple weapons and it showed all season," said Maui Prep co-coach Zach Bailey. "Drew is a willing passer. He's a pass-first guy really. He loves to get his teammates involved, loves to get assists and stuff the stat sheet."

Kaimuki coach Greydon Espinda spoke highly of Maui Prep after the game.

"We like to play and up-tempo game, but they played great defense on us and it kind of hindered us from running up and down the court. That's a great team," said Espinda. "Hats off to them, they did a great job executing their offense."

Rashawn Fritz-Betiru led the Bulldogs in the loss with 15 points.

The Bulldogs were seeking their first state title since 2007 when they won on the Division I level.



Reach Michael Lasquero at [email protected].




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