Kohala back in the saddle: Cazimero, state champions returning to basketball court as NSP

  • The Kohala’s boys basketball team will return for one game this winter season as the club team NSP. They will play Kealakehe's club team and Hawaii Prep on Sunday. (Parish Kaleiwahea/Courtesy Photo)

O’Shen Cazimero and his trailblazing bunch from Kohala will ride again, though the revival will come in a empty gym in rival territory, and the jersey might not look the same.

Who are those masked men?

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NSP.

For the first time since they corralled the HHSAA Division II boys basketball title 13 months ago, a buffed up Cazimero and Co. will take the court as their club team Sunday at a four-game jamboree at Hawaii Prep’s Castle Gym.

“We’re going to be rusty for sure. It’s about the kids being able to play, it’s just for fun,” said Kihei Kapeliela, who coaches the club team and at Kohala High. “Just to have them back on the court will be nice. I know they are excited to play.”

All four teams — HPA, NSP and club teams from Honokaa and Kealakehe are set to play twice apiece — have to pass COVID-19 tests before the jamboree, and as has been commonplace during the modified winter season, basketball players will wear masks.

“They don’t care, they’d wear body suits if they had to,” Kapeliela said.

The last time he and his players stepped foot in Castle Gym, it was overflowing and the atmosphere was raucous, Kapeliela said, for a regular-season BIIF D-II showdown between Kohala and HPA last season.

“It was crazy. It was packed, no seats and it seemed like 75% of the fans were from Kohala,” he said. “When the JV team came back from taking showers, there were no places to sit. The had to sit in the walkways of the bleachers.”

“It will be different (Sunday), but the kids just want to play.”

Ka Makani won that clash and beat Kohala again in the BIIF tournament, but it was the Cowboys who cut down the nets a few weeks later in Honolulu after bringing home the school’s first state title.

Any thoughts of an encore run were stifled as the pandemic caused the cancellation of the HHSAA tournament and the BIIF season. With county and school gyms remaining closed, finding acceptable practice conditions has been difficult.

“We’ve been on an outside court behind the Kamehameha Park gym for a couple of weeks,” Kapeliela said. “We had two practices in 40 MPH wind. Not much shooting, but a lot of conditioning.”

All-BIIF performer Molonai Emeliano won’t play because he’s making a college visit in Arizona, but fellow seniors Moses Emeliano, Jefferey Francisco and Zhane Ellazar-Chang will get in a last hurrah, while juniors Koby Agbayani and La’akea Kauka can take a step toward building for next season.

The headliner, of course, is Cazimero. A junior guard, perhaps only a pandemic — or maybe HPA senior KJ Walker — could have stopped him from becoming a three-time BIIF player of the year.

“He’s been hitting the weights,” Kapeliela said. “He put on 10 to 15 pounds of muscle, I want to say. Since last year, he’s been working out with a guy in Kona. Strength training and agility, stuff like that.”

HPA and a club team from Honokaa will start things off at 9 a.m., followed by: NSP-Kealakehe club, 11:30 a.m.; Kealakehe club-Honokaa club, 2 p.m.; HPA-NSP, 4:30 p.m.

Spectators won’t be allowed, but the games will be streamed by HPA.

“We brought up a few young guys so they can get that varsity feel,” Kapeliela said. “I want to thank Stephen Perry (HPA athletic director) and Fred Wawner (HPA coach) for putting this together.”

Hawaii Prep 57, Kamehameha 46: KJ Walker scored 19 points and Tre Walker added 12 at Castle Gym as Ka Makani, who led 28-19 at halftime, improved to 4-0.

Dorian Roque-Kuamoo paced the Warriors (0-2) with 16 points.

Girls basketball

Hawaii Prep 38, Kamehameha 37, OT: In the teams’ second overtime in as many meetings, freshman Brooke Samura once again provided the decisive points, hitting a floater in the lane late in OT left to lift Ka Makani at home Friday.

Samura finished with 15 points, her fifth double-digit scoring effort as HPA finished the season 4-1. Maja Burdova added 13 points, including a 3-pointer toward the end of regulation to tie the game, coach Lacey Hester said.

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Freshmen Keanu Huihui (19 points) and Maela Honma (13) led the Warriors (2-2), who were on the verge of grabbing control in overtime until Ali Wawner’s basket cut Kamehameha lead to one.

Note: A boys soccer match between HPA and Christian Liberty was canceled, so Ka Makani held a small-sided mini-tournament with coed teams.

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