“We’ve got 20, we’ve got 20, we’ve got 20.”
Wapahani players, students and fans chanted in the middle of the court at Lapel High School, referencing the #20 2A Regional Championship that Wapahani had claimed just moments earlier.
As the crowd filled the court, head coach Matt Luce was shaking hands and thanking fans for their congratulations left and right, getting lost in the crowd.
When it came time to speak about the game, he asked to sit on the bench. After all, his team had just made history, and he wanted to take a breather and let it set in.
The Raiders defeated the Carroll (Flora) Cougars 73-50 to make history as the first Wapahani boys' basketball team to win a Regional Championship
“Proud of my team,” Luce said. “They’re awesome student athletes that just care about winning… We’ve been preparing for this all year. We started preparing for this last March when we lost in the section. We’ve talked about it throughout our workouts. We’ve talked about it throughout our games [and] practices, just about making the right play and winning with defense and rebounding.”
Carroll started hot with a 7-0 run to start, but Wapahani stormed right back with a 14-0 run to lead 14-7 and force a Cougar timeout. A well-ran alley-oop play to end the first quarter had the Raiders up by seven.
“It’s just maturity,” Luce said. “Just being mature and not watching the scoreboard. [After Carroll called timeout], our leaders did it [calmed the team]. It’s out seniors and our upperclassmen. It’s [Isaac] Andrews and [Nate] Nelson and [Aidan] Franks that said ‘Hey, we’re alright here.’ They acted like it. They didn’t watch the scoreboard and they stayed tough throughout the game.”
The second quarter was a much faster affair with Carroll outscoring Wapahani by one point but the Cougars still trailed by six points at the half. Wapahani did well moving the ball around and finding the open man for the shot. However, Luce highlighted the defensive work rate from his players most of all.
“We held a really good Carroll team to 50 points,” Luce said. “The 3-pointers and the passing is awesome, but it’s the rebounding and the defense that carried us.”
Wapahani shot out of the locker room with an 11-2 run but stepped off the gas slightly to close the third quarter before picking it right back up to start the fourth.
By the halfway point in the quarter, the Raiders were in the driver’s seat with a 20-point lead.
With a minute to go, Carroll pulled some of its starters.
With 30 seconds on the clock, Andrews was dribbling the ball at mid-court while the Wapahani fans rose to their feet to cheer.
When the buzzer rang, the student section stormed the court and players took turns kissing the regional trophy – the first Raider players in school history to do so.
Junior guard Isaac Andrews led the Raiders with 21 points while senior guard Aidan Franks followed up with 14 and senior forward Nate Nelson had 14 points.
“Great feeling. I love these guys. I wouldn’t want to do it with anybody else,” Andrews said.
Wapahani now moves on to the semistate competition. The Raiders’ opponent and the location of the game will be announced in a draw March 12.
“We’re just not done,” Luce said. “We’re excited to have another week of practice.”
Contact Daniel Kehn with comments at email@example.com or on Twitter @daniel_kehn.