Leilehua snaps 36-year title drought, stuns Mililani late in OIA Division I Boys’ Basketball championship

Leilehua snaps 36-year title drought, stuns Mililani late in OIA Division I Boys’ Basketball championship

The Leilehua Mules pose as OIA champions on the hardwood in boys’ basketball for the first time since 1988. | Photo Credit: Michael Lasquero, HSRN

Leilehua snaps 36-year title drought, stuns Mililani late in OIA Division I Boys’ Basketball championship

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED FEB 14, 2024

HONOLULU — Long time coming. 

The Leilehua Mules won the program’s second-ever OIA basketball title Wednesday night behind senior Twain Wilson’s 25 points and the last-second heroics of reserve Trystin Stevens, snatching the OIA’s top division championship from the Mililani Trojans in a highly-anticipated rematch from the regular season, 49-48. 

The teams met just over two weeks prior, a sweaty 52-50 victory for Mililani to keep the Trojans unbeaten in league play while handing the Mules their first blemish against their own division all year. Despite the added motivation from falling on January 26, questions remained if the double-overtime win for Leilehua against Kailua on Monday night would prove costly in stamina against fast-paced Mililani.  

It certainly looked like Mililani was the fresher team to open the game as Ezekiel Virtudes found sophomore Timothy Dorn for an emphatic two-hand alley-oop dunk for the game’s first points before the lanky young forward quickly picked up his first block of the night on the other end. Leilehua’s offense sputtered along over the opening eight minutes, shooting a combined 5-of-16 for just 11 points. Luckily for the D1 West’s second-place regular season-finishers, the defensive side of the ball picked up the slack by forcing six Mililani turnovers to keep the Trojans from running away with the game quickly and while sending Leilehua into the second trailing by just two, 13-11.  

Mililani’s Dorn continued to impose his will in the painted area throughout the second quarter, impacting nearly every Leilehua shot attempt with his length as the Mules mustered just five points against the Trojans in the period, going into the break with the deficit from before tripled, 22-16. 

Suddenly, the switch flipped for Leilehua. 

The Mules exploded for 23 points in the third quarter, 15 from Wilson as the senior pushed Leilehua out in front by five by hitting big shot after big shot. The defense continued to strap down the Mililani offense on the other side, holding the Trojans to 12 points over the eight-minute period to flip the game on its head going into the fourth with Leilehua leading 39-34. 

Mililani did not quit, showing off the moxie that they had developed as the program made its third consecutive appearance in the OIA Division I championship game. Dorn provided his best Victor Wembanyama impression, scoring from all three levels while swatting away shot after shot to help tie the game at 46-all with just over a minute to play before Virtudes snatched the lead back for the Trojans with 23 seconds left, dropping home a transition teardrop floater to make it 48-46. 

Despite Mililani’s rapid comeback over the game’s final minutes, Leilehua remained calm trailing by two as head coach Chad Townsend drew up a play to get a look for his top scorer in Wilson. 

When play started, Mililani threw a double-team at Wilson to force the action. Instead of trying to force up a shot over the double, the senior calmly passed off to a wide-open Trystin Stevens in the left corner and Stevens delivered the goods, drilling the go-ahead triple with 5.3 seconds left. 

One last ditch effort resulted in a running three-point try by Dorn at the horn for Mililani, but the shot would fall short as Leilehua won the OIA title in boys’ basketball for the first time since 1988. 

“[Mililani HC Garrett Gabriel] does such a good job, I was running out of ideas of what to do against them … If we played 10 times, we would [win five and lose five] and I really believe that. I have the highest respect for that guy,” Townsend said following the Mules’ win. “Nothing but love for those guys. Very respectful, Mililani’s kids are great kids but I’m just happy that our kids pulled us through.” 

Speaking of great, Dorn solidified his star status among local hoopers in the loss by posting an obscene 20 points, 11 rebounds and seven blocks in 29 minutes of action for Mililani. The Trojans’ top three-point shooter Roman Gabriel scratched out 10 points as the junior struggled shooting from the floor, going 0-of-4 from long range. 

Leilehua was led by Twain Wilson’s game-high 25 points on 10-of-17 shooting and 5-of-7 from three-point range while snatching nine boards and handing out four assists. The senior was awarded HSRN’s “YeahU HNL Player of the Game” honor for his performance. Stevens, who hit the biggest shot of the night for the Mules with 5.3 seconds to go, finished the game with seven points off the bench — all of which came in the second half. Tyree Wilson, Twain’s younger brother, added 10 points and two steals in the historic win for Leilehua. 

“It feels unreal,” Townsend expressed when asked about the program’s first title since the 1980s and second total. “Just for the community because as you can see there is such a great community, support to the end … I just couldn’t be more appreciative [of the Leilehua community].” 

Kaimuki roars back from huge halftime deficit, takes down ‘Aiea for OIA Division II Boys’ crown

Kaimuki roars back from huge halftime deficit, takes down ‘Aiea for OIA Division II Boys’ crown

Kaimuki Bulldogs rally from double-digit halftime deficit to win second OIA D2 title in three years. | Photo Credit: Paul Brecht, HSRN

Kaimuki roars back from huge halftime deficit, takes down Aiea for OIA Division II Boys’ crown

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED FEB 14, 2024

HONOLULU — The Kaimuki Bulldogs flipped the second-half script Wednesday night at McKinley High School, taking down the ‘Aiea Na Ali’i by rallying from an 18-point halftime deficit in the OIA Division II Boys’ Basketball championship for the program’s second OIA title in three seasons, 63-58. 

It wasn’t a pretty start for the Bulldogs as ‘Aiea shot 50% from the field in the first quarter to jump out to an 18-11 lead through eight minutes as Kaimuki struggled to find a consistent offense. Things worsened in the second quarter for the top team in the OIA’s D2 East division, watching ‘Aiea continue to light it up from the floor behind the two-headed offensive monster of Taylor Moku and Stefan Ognjanovic as Na Ali’i rattled off nine makes over 16 shots in the second frame to enter the locker room up big, 38-20. 

Despite being held scoreless through one half as his team struggled offensively, Kaimuki’s Jeremiah White remained calm and ready to help his team slowly chip away with 16 more minutes to play. 

“We just kept pushing, kept pursuing because we knew this wasn’t over,” White said of the Bulldogs’ unwavering confidence despite the deficit. “We’ve been down like this before, so we knew what to do. With the shot clock, it gives [us] more opportunities and more possessions as a team … We just leaned on each other as brothers and just kept fighting.” 

That confidence shined brightly to open the second half as the Bulldogs showed off their bite, outscoring ‘Aiea by 11 in the third quarter to reignite the Kaimuki faithful in attendance as Daysen Lupica poured in eight points in the frame to bring the game within single digits heading into the fourth, 46-39. 

That’s when White decided to take the game by the horns. 

The senior guard poured in 10 of his 15 points over the final eight minutes of regulation, going 8-of-10 from the charity stripe while all the guards for the Bulldogs fed forward Harmon Sio down low as Kaimuki completed the improbable comeback to down ‘Aiea in regulation, 63-58.  

“[Jeremiah] is a special guy, they don’t make [players like him] that often so I’m just happy he’s on our team,” Bulldogs’ head coach Greydon Espinosa said of his senior leader postgame.  

Kaimuki outscored ‘Aiea by 23 points after halftime, using Sio’s 19 points off the bench and White’s heroic fourth quarter performance to snag the Bulldogs’ second OIA Division II title in three years. Lupica poured in 19 points while handing out five assists for Kaimuki, who now enters the state tournament on a three-game win streak. 

‘Aiea was led by Shealand Kazama, who posted a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds in the loss. Junior guard Taylor Meki closed the night with 12 points, four rebounds and four steals while Santi Sarbeland collected 15 rebounds (six offensive rebounds) in the loss for Na Ali’i.