WAILUKU - The Baldwin High School boys volleyball team saved its best for last on Maui.
Now, it is on to the state tournament as Maui Interscholastic League Division I champion for the third time in four seasons after dispatching Maui High 25-9, 25-16, 25-14 in 64 minutes Friday night at the Bears' gym.
"By far, by far we played the best match of the year," Baldwin coach Kalei Houpo said.
Baldwin High School’s (from left) Dennis Kaiwi, Atreil Tanaka, Matthew Demichele and Trent Helle cheer the final point of the first set of a 25-9, 25-16, 15-14 win over Maui High on Friday in the Maui Interscholastic League Division I tournament final at the Bears’ gym.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Maui High’s Sage Malaikini tries to send a shot past Baldwin’s (from right) Bradley Bowlin and Kyson-Lee Kaiama.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Baldwin (13-1) dominated every facet of this one, including big contributions from middle blockers Bradley Bowlin and Trent Helle. Bowlin finished with six kills and a match-high five blocks, while Helle added five kills and two blocks.
"Coach always talks about how me and Trent have to start it up, so the outsides have a way of getting their own kills," said Bowlin, a 6-foot-2 senior who was a first-team MIL All-Star for the Bears' championship basketball team. "As a team, we played really good."
The Sabers (7-7) will play Kamehameha Maui today at approximately 1:15 p.m. at the Maui High gym for the league's second berth to the state tournament.
MIL BOYS VOLLEYBALL POSTSEASON
Friday's Results * At Baldwin
Division I tournament championship
Baldwin def. Maui High 25-9, 25-16, 25-14
Division II tournament championship
Molokai def. Lanai 25-21, 21-25, 25-20, 25-23
Today's Matches At Maui High
Division II overall championship
Seabury Hall vs. Molokai, noon
Division I overall second place
Maui High vs. Kamehameha Maui, 1:15 p.m.
The state tournament seedings will be announced Sunday.
"We just came to play and minimized our errors," Bowlin said. "I am looking forward to states a lot. I can't wait for it."
The Bears had a balanced attack led by Ryan Garces' 10 kills. Afoa Laga added eight and Niko Corpin had five. Kyson-Lee Kaiama dished out 31 assists.
When the Sabers pulled within 7-5 in the first set, the Bears responded by scoring 11 of the next 13 points.
The Sabers rode a 7-3 run to take a 10-6 lead in the second set on a kill by Daniel Hermes Da Fonseca. Baldwin then went on a 17-3 run that gained steam early behind a kill and a solo block by Helle on back-to-back points.
"Maui High is on a roll, we just had to weather that storm that they had," Houpo said. "They have got good hitters. You put Jaryn (Kuhaulua-Feiteira) out there by himself on a free ball, he is going to put it down. Our main focus was to kind of contain him. We knew we couldn't stop him."
Kuhaulua-Feiteira had 10 kills, but no one else on the Sabers had more than Ryan Dalut's four.
The Bears' middle attack was a big difference.
"That's been our rock the whole year, our middles, and then we feed the outsides," Houpo said. "As long as we make the defensive middles stay with our middles, our outside guys had to put it away and they did a good job. That was our main focus all week at practice."
Maui High had one more stand in the third set after a Bowlin kill off a quick set gave Baldwin an early 4-1 lead. Kuhaulua-Feiteira's final kill of the night drew the Sabers within 12-11, and his back-to-back aces cut the Bears' lead to 15-14.
Baldwin finished things off on a 10-point serving run by Laga, who had two aces in the stretch. A block and then a kill by Helle brought the Bears to match point and most of the 500 or so fans in attendance to their feet. Garces finished it with a kill.
Maui High must regroup for an elimination match today. The Sabers swept the second-seeded Warriors in a tournament semifinal on Wednesday.
"Baldwin played very well tonight, but unfortunately we did not," Maui High coach Philip Velasco said. "They did a great job this whole season, their coach got them ready for this game, they played terrific.
"I'm very confident we can bounce back. That is one thing we have been able to do: When we don't play well, usually next match we bounce back and we play really well."
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com