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Gritty Performance Keeps Pahoa Unbeaten in BIIF Play

January 28, 2015, 4:22 PM HST
* Updated January 28, 4:25 PM
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Tolby Saito’s 39 points will grab the headlines after his Pahoa Daggers defeated Hawai’i Preparatory Academy 57-46 in a pivotol Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II contest at Pahoa High School.

If you ask Tolby’s dad, head coach Mark Saito, he’ll tell you that it took an entire team effort to hand Ka Makani its first loss of the BIIF season.

“They weren’t overly into the game. They weren’t that pressured,” said the elder Saito of his team’s mindset heading into the game. “I don’t think they realized how important of a game this was.”

On paper, Pahoa had the thinner squad and the smaller lineup. HPA boasted eight players either six feet tall or above. The Daggers dressed seven total, and only three of them were above six feet.

Those numbers proved meaningless to Pahoa. The Daggers out-rebounded Ka Makani 17-13, gave the ball away less (19 to 14), and held Hawai’i Prep’s top inside presence, Nicky Palleschi, to just 10 points and six rebounds.

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Saito got off to a slow start, missing his first two shots until channeling his inner-Reggie Miller, drawing contact at the right baseline and drawing a foul as he banked a shot in from 15-feet away. From there, the senior guard found a groove. He shot 10-for-17 from the floor, 5-for-9 from beyond the arc, and 14-for-16 from the free throw line on his career-high scoring night.

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“Whenever the whole team was in sync, that’s when I felt in rhythm and I felt more comfortable,” Tolby Saito said after the game, “especially after I airballed that shot [in the first quarter]. That was horrible. After that, it was like, okay, let’s step it up.”

Tolby Saito scored eight in the opening quarter, 10 in the second, 11 in the third, and 10, all from the foul line, in the final frame, all leading to a career-high 39 points.

“They were playing a 2-3, matchup [zone]. The top two were matching up against the guards,  and whenever you go down the sidelines, the middle guy was trapping, so it’s basically trying to draw that middle guy out and just going the other way,” Tolby Saito said of the defense he was facing.

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Pahoa (19-1 overall, 8-0 BIIF) tried to take some air out of the ball and keep HPA on defense in the fourth quarter. For the most part, it worked, but Ka Makani was still able to stay within striking distance.Justas Gecas hit a three-pointer to cut Pahoa’s lead to four at 48-44 with 2:58 remaining. Colin Yates then stole the inbounds pass as the Daggers fell asleep, turning the steal into another layup to bring the game within two.

Any dream of an HPA comeback was dashed when Saito broke through a press and found Torrell Thomas in the paint for a basket and a foul to make it 51-46 with 2:32 remaining. The Daggers would finish out the game with Saito draining more free throws to seal the deal.

“It does feel good,” said the younger Saito on the win, “especially after last year. They killed us and they won states. That’s a big thing, so it gives us hope.”

Hawai’i Prep falls to 12-5 overall and 7-1 in BIIF play. Palleschi and Hide Akai each scored 10 points. Gecas and Yates added eight each.

Pahoa’s role players didn’t light up the score sheet, but timely scoring was important. Keinan Agonias scored eight points, five coming in the third quarter, and Thomas added seven, with five scoring in the final quarter.

Next up for Pahoa is another undefeated league squad in Kohala. Both 8-0 squads will meet at Pahoa High School. Junior varsity play gets started at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Hawai’i Prep 12 10 17 7 – 46

Pahoa 13 13 16 15 – 57

Tuesday’s BIIF scoreboard

Pahoa 57, Hawai’i Prep 46

Kamehameha-Hawai’i 41, Waiakea 37

Konawaena 77, Ka’u 43

Hilo 38, Kea’au 37

Kealakehe 57, Honoka’a 43

Kohala 54, St. Joseph 23

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