Best of the West: Campbell Boys Hand Mililani First League Loss, Win First OIA Div. I Title
By: Paul Brecht
February 2, 2023
ALIAMANU — The Campbell Sabers (23-5, 12-1) came into the evening with just one blemish on the team’s OIA league record, a late regular-season loss at West-leading Mililani (18-4, 12-1), 58-52.
The Sabers avenged that loss Wednesday night, downing the Trojans in overtime, 50-45, to claim the program’s first OIA Division I championship.
The journey to even have an opportunity for revenge on Mililani for Campbell was long, hard and made sure the Sabers would be as battle-tested as possible.
The West’s second-best team throughout regular season play, Campbell dispatched Moanalua in the quarterfinals, 65-54. The win was costly, as Sabers leading scorer Rondell Blenman-Villarreal injured his ankle late in the contest and would be sidelined for the team’s semifinal matchup against unbeaten OIA East leaders, Kailua (21-5, 12-1).
Forced to take on the top overall seeded Surfriders shorthanded, the Sabers played Kailua mostly even through three quarters before surging ahead in the fourth. Campbell held off a last-second Jonny Philbrick 3-point try to move on to Wednesday’s championship game and allow Blenman-Villarreal to return to the lineup.
Mililani entered the game after a close call with Leilehua (16-9, 10-4) in the semifinals, as the Trojans escaped the Mules, 40-37.
Mililani got out to a quick start in the finals, as senior Jayden Kipapa drilled a triple to open play up. An and-one by fellow senior J Marxen on an ensuing possession opened a 6-2 lead over Campbell and forced Sabers head coach Wyatt Tau to take an early timeout to settle his squad.
The timeout proved effective, as the Sabers raced ahead to a 9-6 advantage at the end of the opening quarter as Mizah Carreira scored all 9 points for Campbell.
Mililani flexed the metaphorical muscles in the second quarter, sparked by a Creighton Ofsonka personal 11-0 run to take a double-digit lead midway through the period.
Ofsonka would go down briefly to a leg injury following the run but would later be able to return to the game without a limp. Campbell capitalized on the forward’s absence from the floor, closing the halftime gap to just six, 26-20.
Halftime from the OIA Division I championship: Mililani - 26 Campbell - 20 Creighton Ofsonka’s personal 11-0 run for Mililani helped the Trojans pull away for the 6-point halftime advantage. Mizah Carreira w/ 9 pts 3 TO at half for Sabers. @OIASports— Paul Brecht (@12brecht) February 2, 2023
Just as was the case in the Division II championship game just a couple of hours prior, it was the team looking for revenge who took control in the second half and beyond to take the title.
The Sabers came out of the locker room recharged, sparked once again by Carreira’s electric scoring ability and pride on the defensive end to shut down Mililani’s top scorer in Kipapa.
“I actually wanted to go back to our zone,” Tau said of his second half defensive strategy. “[Carreira] was the one that told me ‘No, Coach, I got [Kipapa]. I’ll pick him up, nobody needs to help.’”
Kipapa came out of the locker room with some extra juice as well, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers, with the help of some Trojan screeners freeing up space, to start the quarter. It was then that Carreira switched onto Kipapa, who would not score again.
That was not the case for the Sabers guard, as Carreira sliced up the Mililani defense to the tune of eight third-quarter points while Campbell continued to chip away at lead that was at 10 points during the period.
Entering the fourth down 35-32, Campbell’s Malik Jackson had yet to get on the board after leading the Sabers with 14 points in the semifinals. That changed after Jackson was fouled on a 3-point attempt from the corner, as he went to the line and went two-for-three to cut it to a one-point Mililani lead.
Carreira gave the Sabers their first lead since the opening quarter on the next possession, knocking down a fall-away elbow jumper to go up, 38-37, with 6:15 left to play.
Campbell started to run the clock with long possessions and the lead, but a Timothy Dorn 3-pointer with just over two minutes left to play knotted the score at 42-42.
Neither side was able to get a shot to go down, and the rematch of the January 13 matchup between the two teams needed an extra period to determine the OIA Division I champion.
The scoring drought would continue for both sides until the 1:55 mark in overtime, when Campbell forward Miles Hornage got a runner in the lane to go. The Sabers would not trail again, holding the Trojans to just one basket in overtime.
Hornage would ice the game with a pair of free throws with just seconds to go, giving Campbell the 50-45 win over Mililani, avenging the Sabers previous loss, and earning the program’s first OIA title.
FINAL/OT: Campbell - 50 Mililani - 45 Hornage iced it at the line as the Sabers avenge the team’s only league loss of the season. Incredible comeback by an incredible team. @OIASports— Paul Brecht (@12brecht) February 2, 2023
It was only Campbell’s third appearance in an OIA championship game, but “like they say, third time is the charm,” Tau smiled and stated postgame.
“[We] wouldn’t have been able to do this without a lot of help from our administrators, our principal, our [athletic director], from teachers. Just a lot of people put in so much work with our kids.” Tau continued. “[The team and community] knew how special this team was and I’m just glad to be a part of this good bunch of kids.”
Campbell was led by Carreira, who had 21 points on 8-14 shooting. Hornage chipped in 12 points for the Sabers and went 6-6 at the charity stripe. Campbell now heads to next week’s HHSAA state tournament, where the OIA Division I champion will have a first-round bye.
Mililani got 15 points and 12 rebounds from Ofsonka, who bounced back nicely after a scary fall in the second quarter. Kipapa ended the night with 12 points, though the senior was held scoreless in the fourth quarter and overtime. The Trojans will now play a first-round game in next week’s 12-team state tournament.
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