Saturday, January 14, 2023
By Wes Nakama
MILILANI — Mililani guard Jayden Kipapa rained six 3-pointers and 29 points on Campbell Friday night to help the No. 6-ranked Trojans hold off the No. 9 Sabers, 58-52, in a key OIA Western Division boys basketball showdown.
A near-capacity crowd of about 500 at Mililani Gym watched Creighton Ofsonka add 11 points as the Trojans improved to 14-3 overall and 8-0 in the West. Mizah Carreira scored 17 points and Rondell Blenman-Villarreal added 15 points for Campbell, which fell to 18-5 and 7-1.
Mililani still has regular season games at Kapolei (5-2) next Wednesday and Radford (3-3) at home on Jan. 21, but the Trojans can at least breathe a little easier after surviving a stiff test from the relentless Sabers.
“We knew they were good, we watched them along the way and they’re battle-tested, they played all the ILH teams,” Mililani coach Garrett Gabriel said. “We wanted to keep it close in the first half, just to give us a chance. We shot it pretty well, Jayden got hot, and that helped, obviously. But after the first half and they went on an 11-3 run, we (still) had a lead, I felt if we played good enough defense, we’d be right there at the end. And it worked out that way. But credit to them, they’re a good team, playing them is not easy. Every game is going to be good from now on.”
The Trojans used a 14-4 run overlapping the first and second periods to take a 19-11 lead after Kipapa’s deep 3-pointer from well beyond the top of the key, but Campbell answered with an 8-0 run as Mason Mua’au scored on a layup to tie it at 19-19 with 3:25 remaining in the half. Roman Gabriel and Ofsonka then drained back-to-back 3’s to push Mililani ahead, 25-20, with just over a minute left, but Bellman-Villarreal scored on a driving layup to cut it to 25-22 at the break.
The Trojans opened the second half with a 10-4 run to extend the lead to 35-26, but the Sabers again fought back, this time with a 12-5 surge to close it to 40-38 at the end of the third period. Carriera then cut it to 45-44 on a putback three minutes into the fourth, but that was as close as they would get as Timothy Dorn swished a 15-foot turnaround jumper from the left elbow 30 seconds later to spark a 10-3 run that made it 55-47 with !:41 remaining after two free throws by Kipapa.
Campbell was able to close it to 55-52 on Carreira’s putback with 38 seconds showing on the clock, but Mililani sank three of four free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.
“We kept making mistakes … when I talked to these guys before the game, they were so hyped, the adrenaline was getting to them,” Sabers coach Wyatt Tau said. “But you know what, hat’s off to Mililani, (Gabriel) is doing a great job with those kids. There’s nothing we could do but just keep working.”
Tau said it was tough to defend Kipapa, even with a game plan to stop him.
“It’s hard when we’re already defending him at the 3,” Tau said. “We said, ‘If he’s going to beat us, he’ll beat us from the NBA 3.’ But that’s exactly what he did, he kept making those shots.”
Kipapa said he knew the stakes were high and his shot had to be on target.
“I had to hit my shots today, it was a big game and it means a lot to our team, our coaches, so I tried to be ready for this,” Kipapa said. “I think I can hit from different ranges and stuff, but they played me good. They kept coming at us and giving us a hard time. But we just had to keep pushing through, and that’s what we did. It feels good, but we just gotta get ready for tougher games, because it’s gonna be tough.”
Mahalo to City Mill for sponsoring our high school basketball photo gallery and for supporting local sports in Hawaii.
Photos: Lori McKeown