Nanakuli earns spot
in state tourney

The Nanakuli Golden Hawks are flying to the Big Island.

Aaron Amaral and Clarence Sesepasara combined for 26 kills as Nanakuli (8-4) rallied past Radford 23-25, 28-26, 25-13 last night to qualify for the state championships, which will be held at the Kamehameha-Hawaii campus Nov. 10-13.

With the win in Thomas Walker Gym at Kahuku, Nanakuli advanced to the semifinals of the Oahu Interscholastic Association boys volleyball playoffs. Nanakuli will meet Kalaheo in a semifinal matchup Saturday at McKinley.

It was a poignant victory for the longshot team that was seeded sixth in the OIA West.

"These guys always give me a heart attack," coach Rosalind Palakiko. "I always told them, from Day 1, we're the team to beat. It was up to them. We had nothing to lose."

Palakiko, in her 17th season at the helm, is going to the state tourney for the third time. Nanakuli last played in states in 1993.

"I feel awesome," said Amaral, a 6-foot senior who also shares setting duties with brother Anson Amaral.

Aaron Amaral pounded 14 kills, and middle blocker Sesepasara tallied 12.

Steve Ryan Badua paced Radford, the No. 2 seed from the West, with 15 kills. Radford closed the season 8-3, including two losses to Nanakuli.

During the break between the first and second games, the lights went out. Power was restored 59 minutes later. With a 14-minute warm-up period for the players, action was held up for a total of 1 hour, 13 minutes.

"Coach said to stretch and get the guys motivated," Amaral said.

Palakiko considered the blackout a blessing in disguise. "I was thinking, maybe now we can regroup."

Badua, a powerful hitter despite his relative small stature, was a thorn in Nanakuli's side. "Our middle blocker was coming late, so (Badua) had a seam, a puka," Palakiko said. "We brought our outside blocker inside and started shutting him down."

The shutdown didn't happen immediately. Badua had 13 of his 15 kills in the first two games. However, the Golden Hawks began to find their rhythm.

"If we wanted this, we had to communicate more, push harder," Amaral said.

Sesepasara had seven kills in the opening set, but just one in Game 2. Nanakuli middle blocker Justin Luavasa stepped up with all four of his kills. The margin was never more than three points, and Nanakuli had the lead, 24-22.

Radford rolled off three points in a row, with two kills by Badua, and led 25-24. A service error by the Rams tied the game, but Badua added another kill to give his team another 1-point lead. Sesepasara came up with his only kill of the set, and after a hitting error by the Rams' Nuutele Vae'ena, drilled one of his three aces to end Game 2.

By Game 3, the wind in Radford's sails was virtually nil.

With Nanakuli ahead 17-12, Amaral took command with his jump serves.

Amaral's three aces helped the Golden Hawks surge to a 21-12 lead en route to victory.

Kahuku def. Leilehua: In the late match, Kahuku rallied past Leilehua 23-25, 25-15, 25-21. The Mules pulled within 17-14 in Game 3, but committed five errors down the stretch to help their hosts.

The Red Raiders, seeded second in the East, improved to 10-1. Kahuku, ranked No. 7 in the Star-Bulletin Top 10, will meet Mililani in a semifinal battle Saturday at McKinley.

Leilehua, the third seed from the West, closed its season 8-4.



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