Senior Isaac Andrews is 18 points away from breaking Wapahani’s career scoring record for the Raiders’ boy’s basketball program.
However, after the white and red defeated Monroe Central 69-53 on Friday evening, that was not the record the Raiders’ fans discussed. It wasn’t the phrase on the pieces of paper the students held up in the student section.
After being the head coach at Wapahani (17-2) for 17 years, Matt Luce now has 300 career wins with the Raiders. He also now has 350 career wins as a head coach.
“It’s special because I’m doing it with kids that I’m really close to and I’m close with their families,” Luce said. “I don't think people realize how long myself and Andy Zickgraph, Jeff Andrews, and Chris Willis [my coaching staff] have been coaching these guys.”
When fans walked into the gym at Monroe Central High School, they probably noticed the golden tint around the entire gym and on the court. However, the side where the benches sat was covered in red and black.
“This is a rival game and our school is [about] two miles up the road,” Andrews said. “It was easy to travel but our community shows up every game and helps us win.”
Before Luce could celebrate his achievement, the game itself had to be played. At first, it seemed like the Golden Bears (8-13) were ready to defend their den by jumping out to a 4-0 lead. However, that lead evaporated in the next two minutes.
Baskets from junior Camden Bell and Andrews allowed the Raiders to put some distance between themselves and their opponents. At the end of the opening period, Wapahani led 22-12.
The rest of the half was similar as the Raiders recorded multiple steals and looked unstoppable.
“We call [that] having fun,” Luce said. “Our kind of fun is playing defense and diving on the floor. It’s passing the ball and making great shots.”
The effort and poise displayed by Wapahani continued into the second half. However, there was a point where the Raiders started taking some rushed shot attempts. Even though his team led 46-25 during the third quarter, Luce called a timeout and reminded them who they were.
“We’re trying to get better,” he said. We still got things to do and play for. The kids know it and I know it.”
Following the break, the Raiders continued their success on offense and moved the ball with ease. During this time, junior Nate Luce – who led Wapahani with 17 points – began to get hot. He drained four 3-pointers in the second half.
“I just took a deep breath [at halftime] and shot even more,” he said.
The Raiders finished the game with all five of their non-starters on the court. It’s the second game in a row – they defeated Union 112-18 on Saturday, Feb 2 – where they have defeated their opponent by more than 15 points and allowed their bench players to get playing time.
“I think we’re starting to pick it up,” Andrews said. “It’s a good time to get better [with it being] closer to the [state] tournament."
Behind Nate was Andrews with 15 points and senior Nick Cook with 13 points. Bell followed with nine points.
After the game, Matt was congratulated by fans and others once he left the visitors’ locker room. To him, being able to give the community a team like the 2023-24 Raiders is what he strives for.
“When you have kids like ours that work together and make the right play and care about winning, I’d pay $5 to watch them play every night,” Matt said.
The Raiders will return next week when they travel to Daleville (11-6) on Friday, Feb. 16. The game will start at 7:30.
Contact Zach Carter with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on X @ZachCarter85.