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To triumph from tragedy, Kamaka Hepa leads pro team to Latvia League Finals six months after his father passed away

by | May 22, 2024 | Basketball, Cover Story

Kamaka Hepa flexes on ’em after putting up a double-double in the semifinals of the Latvia League playoffs.

In the six months since his father passed away, Kamaka Hepa has leaned on hoops to heal the hole in his heart.

The basketball court has been an escape and a sanctuary, a place where the former two-time Alaska Gatorade Player of the Year out of Barrow High has honored his fallen father by playing the best ball of his life in the Lativa League Finals.

Hepa scored 20 points in Game 2, bagged a double-double in Game 3 and pumped in a career-high 28 points in Sunday’s Game 4 for his team, Rigas Zelli, which trails 3-1 in the best-of-7 series heading into today’s Game 5.

The 6-foot-10 rookie began his pro career in Poland but left the team in mid-December after his father Roland died of natural causes. He was 57.

One month later, Hepa, 23, was brought to Latvia as a prized free-agent acquisition and he has not disappointed with 11.8-point and 5.5-rebound averages in 23 games compared to his paltry Poland numbers of 5.4 points and 2.2 rebounds in 12 games.

An All-Big West selection last season as a senior at the University of Hawaii, Hepa has played especially well in the playoffs to lead Rigas Zelli into the Latvia League Finals.

In the quarterfinals, he was solid. In the semifinals, he was strong. But in the Finals, he’s been a superstar with an 18.5-point scoring average and 19-for-22 shooting at the free-throw line.

His 17-point, 10-rebound double-double in Game 3 helped Rigas Zelli win its lone game of the series.

On Sunday, Hepa went off in Game 4 after sinking 9-of-18 field goals and 8-of-9 free throws on his way to scoring 28 points. He connected on 7-of-10 shots in the paint.

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