OLINDA - The more Kaleb Palmer battles Paka Adolpho for inside supremacy, the more the Seabury Hall-Molokai High School boys basketball rivalry grows.
The Spartans took a 2-0 edge in what could turn into a best-of-seven series with a 59-53 win over the Farmers on Saturday afternoon at the Erdman Athletic Center.
Adolpho won the individual battle with 24 points for Molokai, while Palmer had 18 for Seabury, but it was the Spartans (8-1) who opened up a 1 1/2-game lead in the Maui Interscholastic League Division II race.
Michael Clarion of Seabury Hall attempts a shot while being defended by Molokai’s Paka Adolpho during the Spartans’ 59-53 victory Saturday.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Palmer has been on the precipice of a breakout season for the last couple of years, but he has found it
this season as a senior. His brother Michael is a basketball player at California Lutheran University and Dylan King is playing at Regis University in Colorado - both former teammates pushed the younger Palmer in the offseason.
"I worked with my brother and Dylan King this summer and I just worked really hard because I knew that I would have to be filling (2012 MIL D-II Player of the Year) Shane Jacob's spot because he did a tremendous job last year," Kaleb Palmer said. "I knew it was a big role to fill and I just tried to come in with an open mind. My brother always tells me to go hard - he's really proud of the improvements I have made."
x-clinched regular-season championship
Seabury Hall 59, Molokai 53
Kamehameha Maui 68, Maui High 57
Baldwin 44, Lahainaluna 38
Lanai 61, St. Anthony 45
St. Anthony vs. Seabury Hall at War Memorial Gym, 7 p.m.
Cameron King added 13 points for the Spartans, while Michael Clarion and Max DeLyon each had 10.
Molokai (7-3) will host Seabury for a pair of games next weekend, and with a sweep could force a fifth meeting for the regular-season title. There are two more possible games after that, in the MIL tournament and an if-necessary championship game for the league's lone spot to the state tournament.
The way the teams went back and forth Saturday, it's a reasonable possibility. Three times the Spartans opened up double-digit leads, and each time the Farmers battled back.
"Adolpho was real strong, (David) Rapanot was hitting his 3s, and Oli (Falealii) just played an outstanding point guard," Palmer said. "They are a real tough team, but we came through. Max really helped us with the assists and everything, Cameron was hitting his shots and it was a real well-fought game."
Rapanot hit four 3-pointers and finished with 14 points, a total that Falealii matched. Only one other Farmer scored - Likeke Schonely had one point.
The Spartans held a 22-12 lead in the second quarter, but Molokai caught them at 26-26 at halftime - Rapanot hit a pair of 3-pointers and dished out two assists in the run.
Seabury scored 11 of the first 12 points of the second half, but the Farmers rallied to tie the score at the end of the third period as Falealii and Adolpho combined for all of the scoring in a 10-0 run.
The Spartans blasted out on a 13-0 run to open the fourth quarter, with the first eight points of the burst coming from Palmer on three free throws, a 3-pointer and a rugged putback over Adolpho.
The Farmers got within four on a drive by Falealii with 26 seconds left, but no closer.
"They are a great team, they have some great players, it is always a tough game when we play them," said Seabury coach Louis Turbeville. "They're feisty, a lot of the teams are this year. It is pretty even, so we just have to work on maintaining the lead and keeping it."
Molokai coach Lester Delos Reyes said this series is only just beginning.
"We always battle, it is a good rivalry to play Seabury," he said. "They're tough, our kids get better when we play Seabury. We are looking forward to playing them at home and then it could all come down to the tournament."
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org
Oli Falealii 14, Likeke Schonely 1, Paka Adolpho 24, Kaimana Kahale 0, David Rapanot 14, Jordan Boswell 0, Haloa Hamakua 0, Isaiah Ruiz 0, Tani Aikala 0, Hanalei Enos-Dudoit 0.
SEABURY HALL (59)
Jordan Haylor 0, Max DeLyon 10, Nyck Yashiro 1, Cameron King 13, Michael Clarion 10, Kai Shibley 5, Rayson Sorayama 0, Kaleb Palmer 18, Daniel Goodfellow 2.
Molokai ............... 7 ..... 19 ..... 11 ..... 16-53
Seabury Hall ..... 13 ..... 13 ..... 11 ..... 22-59