What you, me and about 300 other fans saw at Moanalua High School gym on Friday night was truly, incredibly epic. Farrington 90, Maryknoll 83 in overtime. Even without the OT, when regulation ended with the score tied at 75, it was phenomenal. I live-blogged it, not just for your information, but so that I could go back and retrace the steps of this game once the awesomeness and madness was done.
I don’t remember the last time I saw a preseason game between two local teams that was so filled with skill, drama and clutch plays. Whether it was Farrington or Maryknoll (or neither) that you were particularly, emotionally vested in, you probably will agree with me.
This may be the best game we see all season.
In the 12 matchups of the ILH-OIA Challenge this week, it was unapproached in every way. (Of course, the previous game on Friday between Punahou and Kalani, a 49-46 win by the Buffanblu, certainly had its moments.)
First, some quick thoughts.
> Farrington called off its fullcourt pressure for most of the night, probably because of Maryknoll’s superb quickness and ballhandling. And still, the Governors produced all those points, all those transition baskets, all those open shots in mere seconds. No need for a shot clock in this battle.
> Maryknoll lost another memorable OT game. Remember the state championship game last February? Kalaheo held on for a 60-54 win in the extra period. Instead of falling behind big again, Maryknoll fought from the opening tip. Neither team had a double-digit lead.
> When Josh Burnett lifted up and launched that 25-foot trey to tie the game at 75 late in regulation (I thought it was more like 23 or 24, but at least one attentive spectator corrected me), he was absolutely certain.
“I knew it was going in,” Burnett told me after the game.
And yet, the defender on the play, Jacob McEnroe, thought he might have altered the trajectory.
“I got a little piece of it,” McEnroe said.
One of the elements that made this game epic is that the two best athletes on the floor, Burnett and McEnroe, faced off in those hugely clutch situations. Burnett versus McEnroe, and even more so because McEnroe defended on that play and through OT with four personal fouls.
> What if Kaleb Gilmore had not been disqualified? Gilmore (20 points) was on a roll with eight fourth-quarter points, having sat most (or all) of the third quarter with four fouls. (Was it really four fouls, or three? The Maryknoll bench seemed to have questions about that.) Then came his smooth left-handed layup through traffic as his team went up 67-64.
But he postured a bit after the layup and got teed up. That was his fifth foul and it came with 4:19 left. For the rest of regulation and OT, Burnett was basically covered and shadowed. And he still came up big, finishing with 34 points. No question, however, that if Gilmore doesn’t get the technical foul — or posture — he plays a major role down the stretch … as long as he doesn’t foul out.
Some ifs and buts involved in this, but the bizarre situation only added to the epic deal.
> Role play: Brandon Floyd had a clutch bucket down the stretch for Maryknoll. But Farrington’s secondary players were even more clutch. Mason Semisi with that turnaround lefty J in the paint to start OT. Tua Unutoa with a stunning 3-pointer from the left corner for an 83-78 lead? Who would’ve predicted that?
The way Burnett was shooting, no lead was safe, which is why the 26-foot trey by Isaiah Visoria to beat the shot clock was crucial. So was the mid-range baseline jumper by Isaiah Smith.
> Revenge of the Smith. He played at Maryknoll until his sophomore season. He played out of his mind on Friday night against his former school, finishing with 26 points. His quick shots in the final quarter and OT were open, but I had to wonder if that was by design. Coach Allan Silva isn’t a big fan of quick shots with no rebounders under the glass.
“I think it was kind of iffy for him,” Smith said after the game. “But I was making the shots.”
Silva said Smith, arguably the quickest guard with the ball in the state, has the green light.
“I told him I want him to shoot as long as he has the lane. If the lane closes and it’s all trees, bring it back out,” Silva said. “He worked hard on his shot all summer.”
> Blue collar Mac. For all of the clutch offensive and defensive plays by the Governors, none would’ve mattered if not for the constant glass-eating efforts of McEnroe. Again and again, he crashed the weak side for offensive boards. McEnroe is a wing player who would be perfectly content to shoot threes and drive to the hoop all night.
However, he understands what his team needs, especially with a surplus of guards (Van Hugo, Visoria, Smith). McEnroe is the glue, the guy who can do the inside work, outside work and everything in between. Especially being a southpaw, he is difficult to contain in the paint, and his teammates often reward him with passes for easy layups and dunks.
“Whatever it takes for us to win,” he said.
> Wasn’t this just a preseason game, Pupule? True. One-hundred-seventy-three points, 36 minutes of wall-to-wall action, and it doesn’t add or minus anything in the league standings for either team.
“Both of these teams, these guys play each other in summer leagues, offseason leagues. They all know each other, play with each other, against each other,” Silva noted. “So they cared about this game.”
It was so apparent from the very start that this wasn’t the usual preseason game. Intensity. Explosion. Skill. Guys wanted this, and that made it so enjoyable to watch as a fan. For some fans, it was unbearable in the final minutes. But overall, if we’re in for more games like this, I can barely wait.
Punahou has been potent so far, even with a narrow win over Kalani on Friday. But even the Buffanblu much prefer to run and gun using a deep bench, which means the ILH season and state tourney might be a lot more frantic and fantastic than we’ve seen. That’s saying a lot considering the aforementioned state final last season.
But 90-83? I could sure get used to that. And it never hurts to ask, right?
Please, Lord, 20 more like this. This season.
OK… one is good.
# # #
If you’ve read this blog long enough, you know I’m a diehard fan of football and basketball. Football, I love ingenuity on either side of the ball. But like basketball, most creativity comes on the offensive end.
For Punahou, it’s less about unique sets and elaborate sequences of screens and pops. It’s more about moving the ball quickly. Getting the ball into scoring scenarios efficiently. Constant on-ball pressure. The results speak for themselves.
Punahou 62, @ Kaimuki 53 (Dec. 3)
Punahou 76, Kalani 55 (Dec. 5)
Punahou 57, Mid-Pacific 40 (Dec. 6)
Punahou 54, Farrington 42 (Dec. 7)
Punahou 70, Kahuku 55 (Dec. 11)
Punahou 64, @ Moanalua 52 (Dec. 12)
Punahou 49, Kalani 46 (Dec. 13)
That’s a fine 7-0 record, all on the road and even in the midst of fairly short prep time for several of the Buffanblu who just completed a long football (championship) season.
> Daniel Andrews has been dominant in limited minutes, using his 6-7 frame and improved ballhandling to reach the basket so fluidly and efficiently. Most big men get stripped by small defenders. Andrews has no such issue.
> Kanawai Noa has been a physical defender, but his corner 3 is approaching automatic status. He’s still got a wrap around that right wrist and hand; he tore ligaments in the thumb area late in the football season. It’s not affecting his shot, apparently.
> Justin Kam and Chris Kobayashi are playing key roles within the system, hitting threes and playing turnover-free ball.
> Dayson Watanabe has prospered in a larger role at the point. He’s always been ready, but with Jordan Tanuvasa out (ACL), Watanabe has been masterful with the ball, and no, he’s not perfect. Still, he’s adjusted to the bigger minutes and is probably the key reason why the Buffanblu have kept winning.
> Trendline down. Fatigue is a factor for every team, even one as deep as Punahou’s. In week 1, they opened with 82 and 76 points on a Tuesday and Thursday. Then came Friday (57) and Saturday (54). This week, it was 70 on Wednesday, then 64 Thursday and 49 on Friday.
The 49 was particularly stunning, but Kalani worked that shot clock almost every time, and Coach Nathan Davis’ plan nearly panned out with a victory. That doesn’t mean the Buffanblu weren’t at least a little bit tired late in the week. But a little rest time for every one of these tournament teams won’t hurt.
Punahou doesn’t play again until Thursday, a home game against Pearl City. Then it’s a two-week break until the ILH regular season.
Correction: Punahou plays at the Holiday Classic in California in the last week of December.
# # #
I really had high hopes for the local teams in the ‘Iolani Classic girls tourney this week. But the reality was overwhelming. Hilo has an outstanding talent in Aliyah Pana, and there is some great talent in her teammates. But their lack of height was a big problem against Westview (Ore.) on Wednesday. The good news for the Lady Vikings is that their quickness will be enough to dominate most local teams.
But in terms of sheer physicality, Hilo didn’t back down to the bigger girls one iota. People were colliding and falling all game long, both teams. It was rugged.
Kamehameha, the defending state champion, took awhile to adjust to the height and strength of national powerhouse Riverdale (Tenn.). Some Warriors struggled to get open shots, taking off-balance jumpers and runners. But by game’s end, they were much more confident. Westview was just so good. Not necessarily gigantic, but tall, smart and so sound defensively.
I would love to see Kamehameha play Westview a few more times this season. I know that won’t happen, but if one loss can make the Warriors better, this was it.
Maryknoll played as tough and physical as Hilo did, which shows that offseason training does make a difference. Of all the local teams that lost in the first round, Maryknoll did the best job of taking care of the ball, mainly because of point guard Cianna Ochoco.
# # #
About those OIA favorites. Yes, that would be the Roosevelt Rough Riders. I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing Mililani or Nanakuli or other title contenders yet in the OIA girls race. But Roosevelt?
Bring your track shoes when you’re on their slate. The Rough Riders keep running, keep gunning and it doesn’t matter if they miss or make, they keep going. They could exist on a 10-second shot clock just fine. But since there’s no shot clock whatsoever, they pick their spots. They’ll swing the ball, do some drive and kick action, and the open shooter always ends up with the ball.
This is a team that is heavy with underclassmen. They play like seniors. They can post up, but even their posts (like Devyn Kauhi) step out to knock down threes. Sharice Kawakami and Starr Rivera. Best backcourt in the state? We’ll see.
# # #
Best concession stand? From Kaiser to Radford to Moanalua to ‘Iolani, they’ve all been good so far. The taco bag at Moanalua is a great find. Just 2 bucks, can’t beat it. They actually load it a small bag of Doritos up with chili, cheese, lettuce and tomato. The pork gisantes at Moanalua is another winner. Can’t beat homemade cooking for just $5.
The chili dog plate at ‘Iolani is great every year, hits the spot, even if I’m shoveling it into my mouth and devouring the whole thing in just 4 minutes (between games).
Well, that’s 22 games in the past 10 nights. More coming soon enough. ‘Iolani Classic opens on Tuesday. Punahou Invitational on Thursday.
Saturday, Dec. 14
• Hilo Holiday Prep Classic
• Pete Smith Classic
3 p.m. Seventh place: Le Jardin vs. Campbell
4:30 p.m. Fifth place: Maryknoll II vs. Mililani
6 p.m. Third place: St. Francis vs. Punahou II
7:30 p.m. Championship: Konawaena vs. Kalaheo
Tuesday, Dec. 17
• ‘Iolani Classic
Kaiser vs. Mount Vernon (N.Y.), 3:30
Fuxin New Star (China) vs. White Station (Tenn.), 5
Iolani II vs. West Linn (Ore.), 6:30
Radford at ‘Iolani, 8
Wednesday, Dec. 18
• ‘Iolani Classic
Oroku (Okinawa) vs. Roman Catholic (Penn.), 3:30
Kailua vs. St. Rita (Ill.), 5
Moanalua vs. Hamilton (Wisc.), 6:30
Kamehameha vs. Westchester (Calif.), 8
Thursday, Dec. 19
• ‘Iolani Classic
Begins 9:30 am
• Punahou Invitational
Farrington vs. Hawaii Prep, 3:30
Kalaheo vs. Baldwin, 5
Pearl City at Punahou II, 6:30
Walnut Grove at Punahou, 8