BIIF soccer playoffs: HPA knocks off Honokaa 2-1 on PKs in semifinals
HONOKAA — Besides his sure hands, Hawaii Preparatory Academy sophomore goalie Trent Wise’s next best quality on the soccer field is his ice-cold composure, maybe an environmental benefit of having been born in Juneau, Alaska.
Wise made a ton of stops but none bigger than a key save in double overtime, and the last block in penalty kicks as HPA outlasted Honokaa 2-1 in a Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II semifinal Thursday.
The No. 3-seeded Ka Makani clinched a spot at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament, which runs Feb. 13 to 15 on Oahu, returning to states for the second straight year.
HPA (9-3-3) will play Christian Liberty (11-3) for the BIIF Division II championship at 5 p.m. Saturday at Kamehameha’s Paiea Stadium.
The Dragons (8-3-3) will play the Warriors (7-3-5) at 3 p.m. Saturday for the league’s third and final berth at states. Last season, Honokaa stayed home after falling to Christian Liberty in the semifinals.
On an overcast day, with mild wind conditions, the Dragons had more than their share of chances to take the less-traveled road to states, but HPA’s Wise kept making big saves.
Wise started playing soccer in the sixth grade in Alaska. His family moved to the Big Island after his seventh grade year, and he won the starting HPA goalie job as a freshman.
“I’m trained to be calm all the time,” Wise said. “It feels amazing to win in shootouts. It’s never happened to me. It’s the second time I’ve ever been in PKs and the first was in AYSO. It’s unreal that we’re going to play for the championship.”
In the first half, ball possession was pretty even between Honokaa and HPA, which connected better on passes for the first 20 minutes. The Dragons turned the tables for the next 20 minutes, and both teams saw a back-and-forth battle in the second half.
Often with Tony Connors trapping balls, surveying the field and finding open teammates, Honokaa had better ball-control and took more quality shots in the two 10-minute overtime periods, 8-3. For the first 80 minutes, the Dragons out shot Ka Makani, 14-11.
“We didn’t finish. That’s been the story of our season,” Honokaa coach Maurice Miranda said. “Our guys sometimes get hurried in front of the net and swing for the fences. We just have to put it in the back of the net.”
After Honokaa defeated HPA 2-0 Friday in Waimea, Ka Makani coach Richard Braithwaite decided to make a lineup tweak that paid dividends, sticking forward Zen Simone at fullback, despite the sophomore’s lack of experience.
“Zen is aggressive and smart, but he’s never played back there before. But he figured it out on the fly,” said Braithwaite, who noted that sweeper Blake Hooser played his best game of the season.
In the first half, Ka Makani senior forward Kama Hurwitz was a terror, hustling down the flanks after every attack and putting pressure on Honokaa’s backline. That eventually opened up the other side of the field.
At the 22-minute mark Kharim Barthson won a ball near the right corner flag, dribbled past his defender and fed Keisuke Anzai, who fronted goalie Elzer Maltezo and scored.
The Dragons, up to that point, couldn’t find the final pass before the shot. Then Connors’ ball-handling stabilized the offense and Honokaa started playing fast-break soccer, getting the equalizer about eight minutes later.
It was on a textbook inside-out overlap run, when Connors settled a ball, passed to forward Seanry Agbayani, who pushed the ball back out to Preston Branco, flying down the left sideline. He had a clear lane and rifled home the score for a 1-1 tie.
Then in the two OTs, every time Honokaa took a shot, Wise positioned himself in the right spot and secured balls with vise-grip assurance, none better than when Chance Salva had a long throw-in that found Branco, who headed it straight to the HPA keeper.
After 1 hour and 40 minutes of 1-1 soccer, the game went to penalty kicks, and the pressure kept cranking after the first six shooters all converted.
Then Simone booted a ball left that hit the back of the net. Honokaa’s Zech Uglade was next for a chance to tie it 7-7 and force another round of shooters. Uglade kicked it down the middle, and Wise came up with the game-winning block.
“There are a lot of things that Trent does well, but he’s got the best hands I’ve ever seen,” Braithwaite said. “If he catches the ball he doesn’t drop it. On that overtime header that he caught, some other goalies might bobble it and someone pops one home.
“He’s been working with a goalie coach on his footwork and positioning. Trent always seems to be in the right place. When I look up, he’s already leaning the right way.”