‘Iolani played large in the biggest moments to come up with a huge Interscholastic League of Honolulu victory.
In a thrilling endgame, the third-ranked Raiders went to the middle to outlast dangerous No. 6 Hawaii Baptist Academy 25-19, 31-33, 25-21 last night at the Eagles’ gym.
For the purposes of staying in contention for the first-round ILH berth to states, it was a must-win for coach Mike Among’s Raiders. The marathon second set went the way of HBA, but ‘Iolani (6-1 ILH) played with poise around it and heads into tomorrow’s showdown at top-ranked Punahou with some momentum.
HBA (4-2) played with a desperate edge much of the way. The Division II Eagles threatened to come from behind to knock off an ILH Division I team for the second straight night, but ultimately couldn’t stop the Raiders’ balanced attack. Five ‘Iolani players had six or more kills, including a team-high 12 by hitter Gabriel Vega.
"Teoni (Obrey, the HBA coach) has done an absolutely unbelievable job with this program. They’re tough every year, doesn’t matter who they graduate. So it’s always scary, especially coming into this gym," Among said. "They’re very successful, they get good crowds. We knew we were going to be in for a fight."
That much was clear when neither side yielded consecutive points for a 16-point stretch from 24-all in the second set until HBA’s Michael Fisher put down back-to-back kills to even the match at a frame apiece.
Dropping the pivotal second set could have deflated the visiting Raiders, but instead they pulled together.
"We knew we had another game coming up and forgot about it right away, just kept playing," said ‘Iolani senior setter/hitter Logan Nowack, who had nine kills and 15 assists. "Think about it later."
HBA rallied to lead 14-13 in the final set, but the Raiders came back with a 5-1 spurt highlighted by two of middle Tyler Cundiff’s match-high nine blocks.
Suddenly Cundiff put down two quick-set kills at center net off assists from Nowack, and the Raiders had a 20-17 lead they wouldn’t yield.
"We had a height advantage there," Among said. "It’s a team effort. If the passes aren’t there, the set can’t be there. If the set’s not there, the middles can’t be run. If the middles aren’t there, then the outsides get all the blockers. So they all work together and help each other out."
Fittingly, the match ended on a combined block by Cundiff and Nowack.
HBA was led by its potent twin towers, sophomore Fisher (18 kills) and junior Chad Barretta (14 kills), who blasted balls through the Raiders block with seeming impunity until the final set.
The only real shame about the match was that, after three exciting sets and three previous meetings in nonconference tournaments, the teams won’t meet again this season.
"It was a ton of energy (expended in the second set). We needed to get back in the game and also pull it out at the end. It was sideout for sideout," Obrey said. "’Iolani played really, really well. They had a really good scheme, a really good game plan."