WAILUKU - Pasoni Tasini is having fun in his last season of organized basketball.
The 6-foot-4 center for Baldwin High School scored 14 points and grabbed 16 of his team's 31 rebounds to lead the Bears to a 47-34 win over King Kekaulike on Saturday night in front of about 400 fans at the Baldwin gym.
The win lifted Baldwin to 6-0 in Maui Interscholastic League Division I play, with a two-game lead over second-place King Kekaulike (4-2) and six games to play in the regular season.
PASONI TASINI – ‘Honestly, coming into this basketball season, I didn’t expect to have this much fun.’
"My job mainly is to get rebounds, if I can get at least 10 or 12 rebounds, that is good enough for me," Tasini said. "The scoring is just extra."
In a defensive battle, Tasini fulfilled his role, leading the Bears to a 14-rebound advantage.
The all-state defensive lineman and 2011 MIL Boy Athlete of the Year recently received his fourth NCAA Division I football scholarship offer, from Oregon State, to go along with Nevada-Las Vegas, Utah and the University of Hawaii. He plans to visit OSU next weekend and Utah and Hawaii later.
More immediately on his mind is this basketball season. Even free throws, once a large hindrance to his game, weren't a significant concern - he was 4-of-8 against Na Alii.
"It is about time I started hitting some of those, I have been working on it for a while," he said.
"Honestly, coming into this basketball season, I didn't expect to have this much fun. "I'm enjoying myself, playing well according to the coaches. I'm loving it right now. I love the boys, that is who I play for and I am having a great time playing basketball. I am going to miss basketball next year."
Baldwin coach Wayne Gushiken is grateful to have a 255-pound presence in the middle, especially in a physical contest like Saturday night's.
"There was a lot of banging, but we came through with our life, weathered the storm," Gushiken said. "Pasoni played really well. More than his points, he was on the boards all night. If he was a better free-throw shooter, he would be more like 20 (points). He is actually getting better at the line."
King Kekaulike opened the game with a 7-2 run, but Baldwin got within 11-9 at the end of the first quarter.
The Bears' defense was stellar in the second quarter, forcing Na Alii into an 0-for-11 shooting performance and eight turnovers, but the Bears shot just 2-for-10 themselves as the half ended 16-16.
In the third the Bears rallied behind Gabe Ross, who scored five of his nine points in the quarter to open a 32-23 lead.
A layup by Jacob Havron, who battled Tasini inside all night, brought Na Alii within 32-27 early in the fourth quarter, but they would get no closer. Ultimately, 11-for-44 shooting from the field and 19 turnovers did them in.
"We just had a hard time putting the ball in the hole," said King Kekaulike coach Bill Naylor. "We got a little excited, Baldwin made some buckets. I thought our intensity on defense in the first half was really good. It was a heck of a defensive battle the first half."
Na Alii, who were led by Jansen Agapay's 12 points, have never been to the state tournament and now will need help to catch the Bears for the regular-season title and state berth that goes with it.
Baldwin shot 12-for-26 from the field and put the game away in the fourth quarter by going 6-for-13 at the line.
"This was a swing week, really important for us, King K and Lahainaluna (3-3)," Gushiken said. "Those two meet next week, so someone is going to take another hit. We won't mention the standings - I think the boys know it anyways - but we have just got to keep on pushing."
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com
KING KEKAULIKE (34)
Jansen Agapay 12, Jacob Havron 8, Keita Naito 4, Chase Iwata-Bartelme 1, Gabe Gunter 7, Jordon Mauliola 2, Trey Texeira 0, Austin Ferreira 0, Logan Birch 0.
Pasoni Tasini 14, Gabe Ross 9, Teva Eldridge 5, Ryan Garces 5, Bradley Bowlin 6, Kody Takushi 5, Jeremiah Badillo 3, Semisi Malafu 0, Adrian Garces 0.