A fast start, a stout first-half defense and the usual balanced scoring boosted Wapahani on Saturday night in a battle of county champions.
The Raiders stormed ahead of Union 16-0 in the first quarter and never were seriously challenged afterward in taking a 62-38 victory in a showdown for first place in the Mid-Eastern Conference.
“You can’t spot a really good team that many points,” said Union coach Jeff Holloway. “We played like we were a little intimidated. I haven’t seen that happen before (a scoreless first quarter).”
The decisive win clinched at least a share of Wapahani’s second consecutive championship in the MEC. The Raiders, ranked No. 10 in Class 2A, rose to 7-0 in the MEC and 15-3 overall.
Grant Evans led Wapahani with 20 points, while Jacob Foster scored 14 and grabbed 11 rebounds. Tanner Davis added 11 points, Cyler Sarah nine and Brandon Williams eight.
Davis calmly swished an early 3-pointer and then another later in the quarter as Wapahani passed inside-out and around to find the open player.
“We try to get a fast start every game,” Davis said. “We get a lot of good looks when teams collapse in on (6-foot-7 post) Jacob. That leaves a lot of us wide open.”
Union had a tough time getting an open look in the first quarter. Star senior guard Willie Evison was held to one layup — that happened in the last minute of the first half.
“I thought our defense played great tonight,” said Wapahani coach Matt Luce, signaling out point guards Davis and Williams. “They kept their composure. Evison is an outstanding guard. We worked hard to keep in front of him.”
Evison scored 12 in the second half to finish with a team-high 14 points. He and Spencer Shore hit the Rockets’ only two treys within 15 seconds midway through the third quarter, but they couldn’t sustain any significant rally.
Those two had helped Union win its first Randolph County Tournament in 50 years. Nick Glaser added 10 for Union, which dropped to 13-3 overall and 5-1 in conference.
Glaser hit a field goal and four free throws as Union went inside in the second quarter. The Rockets scored 15, but Wapahani added another 16.
The Rockets still have two conference games left, both at home: Feb. 19 against Cowan and Feb. 22 against Randolph Southern.
The Raiders already have won their second consecutive title in the Delaware County Tournament and are looking to repeat an 8-0 run in league. They get that opportunity on Feb. 15 at home against Daleville. Wapahani doesn’t play again until then.
It’s very important to finish out as unbeaten champions, said Davis and Luce. “One of our first goals each season is to win conference,” Luce said. “We’ll take a few days off now and try to stay fresh.”
Davis, a junior, said Wapahani, isn’t just looking for another title: “We’d like to do it again next year.”