Top Performers
Triplett, Nasu delivered in the clutch for D2 state champs Na Pueo, Wolfpack




Drew Triplett

Maui Prep basketball  •   #2  G  Senior

Zach Bailey isn't shy with his words when it comes to Drew Triplett's importance to the history-making Maui Prep boys basketball team. 

"Oh, he means everything to our team," said Bailey, co-head coach of the Division II state champion Na Pueo, who completed an unblemished 17-0 record Saturday night with their 65-35 win over Kaimuki in the title game of the Heide & Cook/HHSAA D2 State Championships.

Triplett, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound point guard, is a three-year starter and a team captain. He's also the team's leading scorer at a gaudy 21.8 points per game. 

"He's our leader, he's the heart and soul of the team," Bailey said. "But at the same time it's not all Drew — we got other guys. Every player on our team is unique and they add value to our team and that's what makes our team special and Drew would say the same thing."

As a sophomore two years ago, Triplett made a splash with a Maui Interscholastic League-record 53-point performance in a win over Molokai. He helped Maui Prep reach the MIL tournament tournament final that year and averaged 25.5 points, 14.3 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 4.0 steals per game. Triplett recorded three triple-doubles that season and was selected as league Player of the Year in D2. 

"His role has evolved from his sophomore year, when everyone knew him as being a scorer," Bailey said. "He had that 50-point outburst his sophomore year, but his game has grown in his ball-handling, his shooting ability — which he's worked hard on this season — and now he can do it all:  shoot the midrange, he can get to the basket, he can shoot the 3, so he's very versatile."

But Bailey noted that Triplett can do more than just score points. 

"I think he can obviously score, but I think what makes him most unique is his ability to pass the ball and get guys open and get them shots," Bailey said. "A lot of teams key in on him, so he knows where his teammates are and where they're gonna be, so I think his passing gets overlooked, but really he's a complete player. He does it all and he plays both ends of the court, he's a willing passer, a great leader and a great teammate"

More on Triplett's passing ability later. 

Maui Prep marched through the MIL D2 ranks this season; it won all 11 league games by 17-or-more points, including a season-high 100 points scored in a rout of Haleakala Waldorf back on Jan. 28. 

In the semifinals of the MIL tournament, however, Triplett went down hard on the back of his head after he was fouled while going to the basket. 

"I was there; it was scary," Bailey said of Triplett's injury. "It was definitely scary and it was tough. I mean, the crowd went silent; they were stunned, but when he turned over and got up, I knew he was fine. We're just happy that he was OK and it's a testament to our athletic trainer and the work she's done with all our athletes to keep them on the court."

Despite leaving the game, Triplett still finished with a game-high 15 points. A day later, he posted 24 points, with four rebounds, eight assists and five steals in a 68-32 win over Seabury Hall in the MIL title game. 

Na Pueo were seeded fifth when the bracket for the Heidi & Cook/HHSAA Division II State Championships was revealed two weeks ago. They opened the eight-team tournament with a 75-50 win over Kapaa in Thursday's opening round. Triplett made six of his seven shots from inside the arc and was also 6-of-7 shooting from the line to finish with 18 points. He also grabbed seven rebounds and had eight assists in 30 minutes played. 

In Friday's semifinal round, Triplett and Maui Prep were tasked with taking on reigning All-Hawaii D2 Player of the Year O'Shen Cazimero and defending state champion, Kohala. 

Although Cazimero finished with a game-high 26 points, Triplett paced his team to a 65-46 win over Kohala with 24 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals; He was one of two Na Pueo to play the entire game against the Cowboys. 

Bailey pointed out that Triplett requested to draw the assignment of covering the prolific Cazimero. 

"He wanted the challenge. He was ready, everyone was locked in when we played Kohala and against O'Shen," Bailey said. "He wanted that challenge and he guarded him the whole game — I think that was the most impressive thing in the tournament to me — he wanted that challenge to guard him and he did. He got scored on, but he wanted to go against the best and that's what competitors do."

Against Kaimuki in Saturday's state title game, Triplett put his aforementioned passing prowess on display for all to see with his 16-assist effort to go along with his 10 points and eight rebounds. Triplett was the lone player in the game to play all 32 minutes of the contest. 

"In the championship game he didn't score at his best, but other guys started hitting and he was just finding guys, getting deep into the defense and finding guys and they were knocking down shots," said Bailey, whose team trailed the Bulldogs, 15-14, after one quarter. 

He added, "When things started to go awry in the first quarter, we weren't in rhythm so we talked to them and they were able to make plays and (Triplett) was able to distribute the ball well and all the guys made plays, so it was awesome to watch."

Maui Prep outscored Kaimuki 51-20 over the final three quarters and went on to win by a final score of 65-35.

The result is the first state championship in any team sport for Na Pueo and the first state title in basketball for the 40 years. 

"It's surreal. I'm just so proud of our team," Bailey said. "Our whole team came out and performed and they did an amazing job and they deserve all the accolades and praise they're getting."

Triplett was selected as the tournament's Most Outstanding Player and was joined on the All-Tournament Team by MPA teammates, Jimmy and Dylan Falk. 

"It's been an unreal experienced and we are just so blessed for the opportunity that we've had to experience this, but our kids put in the work and when you put in the work and face adversity and stay mentally strong, good things happen and I'm proud of the human beings that they are and I know our kids will do good things in life," Bailey said.  

As for Triplett, he has yet to decide where he will play college basketball next year, but wherever that may be, Bailey is sure that he will represent himself and Maui Prep well. 

"He's an awesome kid and a great role model for all our kids here on campus," Bailey said. "All the faculty and staff love him, my young son, he loves him; Drew always speaks to the little kids. He's just a great kid, all his peers love him and he's friends with everyone. He's very respectful, he's been brought up by great parents who instilled in him great morals and values, so he's been a pleasure to coach."

BOYS BASKETBALL

Quintan Akaka, Baldwin — Scored 13 points with 14 rebounds, two assists, three steals and two blocks in a win over Kailua, scored 14 points with 10 rebounds and a steal in a loss to Saint Louis and scored 24 points with four rebounds and two steals in a loss to Iolani

Aiva Arquette, Saint Louis — Scored 25 points with 12 rebounds, two assists and two steals in a win over Mililani

Hayden Bayudan, Saint Louis — Scored 19 points with three assists, three steals and one rebound in a win over Kahuku

O'Shen Cazimero, Kohala — Scored 31 points with nine rebounds, six steals, three assists and one block in a win over Waipahu, scored 26 points with five steals, three rebounds, two assists and one block in a loss to Maui Prep and scored 31 points with six rebounds, five assists, seven steals and one block in a win over Hawaii Baptist

Malu Cleveland, Kamuki — Scored 17 points with six rebounds, six assists and five steals in a win over Le Jardin and scored 18 points with 14 rebounds, eight assists, five steals and two blocks in a win over Hawaii Baptist

Logan Dias, Maryknoll — Scored 18 points in a win over Kamehameha-Maui and scored 15 points with four rebounds, three steals and two assists in a win over Kahuku

Dylan Falk, Maui Prep — Scored 18 points with three rebounds, one assist and a steal in a win over Kapaa

Jimmy Falk, Maui Prep — Scored 17 points with six rebounds and three assists in a win over Kaimuki

James Judge, Seabury Hall — Scored 16 points with 14 rebounds, one assist, one steal and a block in a loss to Hawaii Baptist

Kamuela Kaaihue, Roosevelt — Scored 15 points with eight rebounds, one assist and a steal in a loss to Iolani

Laakea Kauka, Kohala — Scored 21 points with five steals, two rebounds and two assists in a win over Waipahu and scored 22 points with 11 rebounds, two blocks and a steal in a win over Hawaii Baptist

Kai Kimhan, Le Jardin — Scored 17 points with four steals, two assists and one rebound in a loss to Kaimuki

Solomone Malafu, Kapaa — Scored 11 points with 10 rebounds, three steals, two blocks and an assist in a loss to Maui Prep 

JJ Mandaquit, Iolani — Scored 19 points with two rebounds, three assists and three steals in a win over Hilo

Jackson Mayo, Mililani — Scored eight points with 11 rebounds, two assists and one steal in a win over Maryknoll

Jonny Philbrick, Kailua — Scored 18 points with six steals and two rebounds in a win over Kapolei and scored 15 points with four assists, three steals, one rebound and a block in a loss to Baldwin

Kala Rall, Kapaa — Scored 20 points, including six 3-pointers, with three rebounds and one block in a loss to Maui Prep and scored 13 points with 12 rebounds in a win over Le Jardin

Eli Shibuya, Hawaii Baptist — Scored 17 points with four rebounds, two steals and an assist in a loss to Kaimuki

Kale Spencer, Kamehameha-Maui — Scored 19 points in a loss to Maryknoll

Duke Thomas, Le Jardin — Scored 11 points with 16 rebounds, six assists, three steals and three blocks in a loss to Kaimuki and scored 16 points with 18 rebounds, three blocks and one assist in a loss to Kapaa

Amari Westmoreland-Vendiola, Kahuku — Scored 20 points with six rebounds and one steal in a win over Kamehameha-Hawaii and scored 16 points in a win over Kailua and scored 31 points with five rebounds, two steals and an assist in a loss to Maryknoll

Jeremiah White, Kaimuki — Scored 26 points with three rebounds and two assists in a win over Le Jardin

Kunique Yandall-Parker, Kapolei — Scored 14 points with 15 rebounds and six blocks in a loss to Kailua

Justin Yap, Maryknoll — Scored 16 points with two rebounds, two assists and three steals in a loss to Mililani and scored 15 points with four rebounds, three steals and two assists in a win over Kahuku

Hudson Yarbrough, Baldwin — Scored 22 points with four rebounds, two assists and one steal in a win over Kailua and scored 15 points with eight rebounds, two steals, two blocks and an assist in a loss to Iolani




Solala Nasu

PAC-5 soccer  •   #5    Sophomore

There was no doubt in Ryan Leong's mind that Solala Nasu would be a good one. 

And that was before she ever played for him. 

Leong, who is co-head coach of the PAC-5 girls soccer team along with his father, Shannon, was right and one need not look any further than last Saturday to prove his point. 

Nasu, a 5-foot-3 sophomore who attends University Lab, played the role of hero for the Wolfpack (6-3-2), with her game-winning goal five minutes into the second half of Saturday's 1-0 win over Kauai in the title game of the NIU Health Urgent Care/HHSAA Division II Girls Soccer State Championships at Radford's John E. Velasco Stadium. 

Nasu, who goes by the nickname ‘Lala,' scored the lone goal of the contest on a direct free kick. 

"I actually had so much confidence in her because we practice it so much in practice," Ryan Leong said. "Of course, nothing is guaranteed, but we all believed in her to take those kicks and she nailed it in and I'm just so happy for her, that her hard work at practice paid off."

It was Nasu's second goal of the state tournament — she also had one in Thursday's quarterfinal win over Waimea — and her fourth of the year. Nasu's goal was a fine example of the accuracy with which she regularly strikes the ball. 

"We always talk about technique and where to aim and she's good at aiming and hitting it right underneath that crossbar, in kind of that spot that's hard for the goalie," Leong said. 

He said the precise placement on Nasu's goal was necessary to get the ball past Kauai goalkeeper Jaeda Planas, who registered seven saves between the posts in defeat. 

"Kauai's goalie is good, so it was good that we always work on shooting and passing a lot at practice," Leong added. 

Nasu is one of the Wolfpack's two center-backs and consequently a pivotal piece of the defense, Leong said, but she's also a key to the offense. 

"She takes our free kicks and corner kicks," Leong said. "She can shoot with both feet, not just one foot, which makes her very dangerous and coupled with her accuracy, it's huge. I always tell her, ‘accuracy over power (because) once you master the accuracy, the power is gonna come,' and oh, man, has it ever."

Nasu's versatility allows Leong to play her at center-back, holding-mid or even attacking-mid. 

"She's a very smart player, very humble and she is very coachable. She's just naturally skilled. I mean, soccer is a hard sport to learn and once you teach her something, she picks it up real quick; it doesn't take long for her to learn it and yeah, she's just good," Leong said. 

Leong calls Nasu, along with fellow center-back Riley Sagapolutele and goalkeeper Kayla Arucan the "heart of the defense.

"Our defense is really good and they work well together, but Lala is that piece where everyone feels safe and secure when she's back there because when I try to move her — if we need to try and score, I trust my defense without Lala back there and I'll want to move her — but they're all like, ‘No, no, no,' and even Lala says, ‘I think I should stay in the back,' " Leong laughed. "They're some girls, but sometimes as a coach you gotta make adjustments when we're down."

On top of all of her ability on the pitch, Nasu is simply a natural born leader. 

"The girls are just drawn to her because of how good she is. So although she wasn't one of the captains, they would still ask her for advice, even positioning," Leong said. "As a coach, of course I know where to put the girls, but I want them to learn on their own on who should go where on positioning, so I actually have the captains do a lot of the positioning so they will go to her and ask her and she knows where to plug and play players, too — and it's the same place I would put them."

Leong credited Nasu and the defense for keeping the Wolfpack in games against Division-I powerhouses Punahou and Kamehameha earlier this season. PAC-5 lost both matches by identical 1-0 scores. 

PAC-5 started the season with two ties and two losses in their first four games to open the Interscholastic League of Honolulu season, but went on to win six of its final seven, including four consecutive shutouts to finish the year. Leong noted that his team was hindered by COVID-19 cases earlier in the season and also had numerous players miss games because they were traveling off-island. 

"I didn't have everybody for a game until the last game of the ILH season against Mid-Pac. COVID hit us hard and the injuries, too," Leong explained. 

The Wolfpack had two weeks off between the end of the ILH season and the start of the state tournament — not that there were any signs of rust. 

PAC-5 breezed past Waimea — its first of three consecutive opponents from the Kauai Interscholastic Federation — by a score of 11-0 in Thursday's quarterfinals. Leila Leano score the lone goal in Friday's 1-0 win over Kapaa in the tournament semifinals to put them into Saturday's championship match. 

The Wolfpack did not allow a goal in three state tournament games. Nasu was a big factor in that, without question. 

"Lala just stayed composed and she read those teams and just ate them alive," Leong said. "She was intercepting the ball, if they made a bad touch, she took it away. She reads all of that stuff and she communicates with her defense, that way they're all on the same page at the same time."

Leong previously coached Lala's older sister, Fua, also at PAC-5. That's when he recalls seeing Nasu already working at a young age on her craft. 

"I would always see Lala training on the side with her father, which is something I used to do when I was younger, go by myself and training," Leong reflected. "I saw that and I knew this girl was special. Just to take time out and train by yourself is huge when you could be out at the beach or at the mall, but she's training — that's dedication."

Nasu has been playing soccer since she was "five or six" years old and is a member of the Leahi Soccer Club.

"She can read the game really well. She has a finesse touch with the soccer ball, it's just so smooth when she plays," Leong described. "She knows when to dribble and when not to dribble — that's all part of reading the game — and she's just a smart player because reading the game takes time because you have to have a lot of game experience to be able to ready, so that's huge that she can read the other team and her anticipation is really good, too."

As a youngster, Nasu participated in karate. Her next challenge? 

"She's going to try golf this spring," Leong said.

Why not? 

"She's just a happy-go-lucky kind of girl who is always happy, smiling and that, to me, just says a lot about her character and why people are drawn to her, just that positivity," Leong said. "She brings those positive vibes. She's good fun, she's so chill. You know, you can feel some people's presence or their anger, (but) she's so relaxed and chill that she just attracts people to her because she's so calm."

Nasu's calm demeanor that helped PAC-5 win its first girls state soccer title in 12 years over the weekend should certainly serve her well out on the links this spring as well. 

It was the fourth overall state championship for the Wolfpack and their first under the father-and-son duo of Shannon and Ryan Leong. 

 

GIRLS SOCCER

Kasi Amaral, Nanakuli — Scored two goals in a win over Waianae

Ashlyn Dowda-Gates, PAC-5 — Scored two goals in a win over Waimea

Jaeda Edayan, Mililani — Scored three goals in a win over Hilo

Jordyn Eldredge Sagapolutele, Punahou — Scored two goals in a win over Kekaulike

Anuhea Ilae, Punahou — Scored two goals in a win over Moanalua

Sailor Keahiolalo, Kapaa — Scored two goals in a win over Waianae and scored two goals in a win over Kamehameha-Hawaii

Leila Leano, PAC-5 — Scored the lone goal in a win over Kapaa

Iris Miguel, Leilehua — Scored two goals in a win over Waimea

Lily Miguel, Leilehua — Scored two goals in a win over Waimea

Camrynn Nitta, PAC-5 — Scored two goals in a win over Waimea

Mackenzie Nitta, Mid-Pacific — Scored three goals in a win over Seabury Hall and scored three goals in a win over Leilehua

Jaeda Planas, Kauai — Made seven saves in a loss to PAC-5

Kapena Ramos, Mid-Pacific — Scored two goals in a win over Kalaheo

Marley Roe, Kamehameha — Made six saves in a win over Punahou

Xevani Salanoa, Punahou — Scored two goals in a win over Moanalua

Kilinahe Schenk, Kalaheo — Scored four goals in a win over McKinley

Jasmine Semblante, Waimea — Scored two goals in a win over Nanakuli and scored two goals in a loss to Leilehua

Briana-Jean Tanaka, Hilo — Scored two goals in a win over Kaiser 

Coral Turner, Kauai — Scored the lone goal in a win over Kamehameha-Hawaii

Hanna Wamsley, Kapaa — Scored two goals in a win over Waianae and scored two goals in a win over Leilehua



Reach Kalani Takase at [email protected].




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