Kapolei Basketball Team Unbeaten Heading Into OIA Tourney

When the Hawaiian Airlines Division I State Basketball Tournament gets under way next week, there can be no doubt who will be the mystery team. That distinction clearly belongs to Kapolei, which has plainly been the marquee “underthe-radar” outfit in the state this winter.

Soccer reigns supreme in Kapolei during February after all, given the Hurricanes’ success in that sport.

In a school stocked with gifted athletes, Kapolei’s current basketball team has only two multisport athletes on its roster. Both are football players, while the rest of the Hurricanes’ roster includes kids who play only basketball. Among them is Curtis Tavares.

“Curtis is a real good soccer player and we thought he might play soccer instead,” Kapolei head coach Gary Ellison said. “He played soccer one summer, but then he changed back.”

The Hurricanes were still unbeaten heading into last weekend’s Oahu Interscholastic Association Tournament semifinal game with East champion Kahuku. The tournament continues this week with the OIA title game set for 7 p.m. Thursday. Kapolei had already clinched one of the OIA’s five berths for the state tournament before the matchup with Kahuku.

Even so, the celebration for what has been an extraordinary season has already been put on hold. The Hurricanes won’t fashion themselves as a team “just happy to be there” next week. If anything, the defensive-minded Hurricanes are built for the post-season.

“It will have to be our defense (that carries Kapolei),” Ellison said. “It will be our first time (playing in a state tournament), and they might be a little jittery, but we’ll tell them to play the way we’ve played all year.”

Kapolei, which has held seven of its last 10 opponents to under 40 points, has benefited from solid leadership, namely that of Chris Dillard, one of the Hurricanes’ most consistent to date.

“They’ve all been playing well, but the one who has stood out more than anyone has been Chris,” Ellison said of Dillard, who has scored in double figures in 12 of his last 14 games. “He plays good defense and he’s one of our main scorers. He gets a lot of rebounds, and that’s a plus.

He’s had games where he’s had 16 or 17 rebounds.”

Offensively, Kapolei has received much of its scoring from Joshua Wills (12.6 points per game), Zach Reeves (11.4) and Tavares (10.3).

Pairings for next week’s Hawaiian Airlines DI State Tournament will be revealed Sunday. The event will provide the perfect ending for a senior class that has lifted the program to new heights. Although Kapolei posted a winning season three years ago, the team able to make it out of the first round of the OIA Tournament the past two seasons.

“They enjoy playing together,” said Ellison, “and they’ve worked real hard for all of this.”