Big Dance endeth: Post-tourney thoughts

Punahou’s Kupono Fey took a charge from Kawehena Johnson of Kahuku during a physical state championship game. Photo by Jamm Aquino.




It’s 1:35 a.m., I got done with 12 hours of coverage (video, reporting, photos) at the Hawaiian Airlines/HHSAA Boys Basketball State Championships and, after a late-night dinner, I’m officially fried brains.

It’s a nice, happy kind of fatigue, though. It’s not like I’m a hoops glutton, no way, not even with me finally home and watching the NBA All-Star Saturday skills challenge off the DVR.

I have to say this (and a few other things): the Division I final between Punahou and Kahuku turned out to be one of the most intense I’ve seen in decades. I’m not talking trash-talk, dirty intense. Just hard, fast, dive-on-every-loose-ball and challenge-every-shot INTENSE. Big plays on offense. Big plays on defense. For 3 1/2 quarters, Kahuku matched every Punahou move and then some.

Eventually, though, Punahou pulled ahead and shut down Kahuku’s main scoring threats tonight, Kawehena Johnson and Mason Kuali‘i-Moe. But until those last 5 minutes, it looked like the Kahuku guards were on pace to do something monumental — start and excel in both the state football and basketball state championship games, and win both.

It was an odd thing for me, watching from the sideline instead of up on the middle of the upstairs seats. Up there, video footage is at its best. But my camera batteries were dried out after a full day of shooting games, so I had no choice but to sit there at the table near the benches, shooting at ground level. Turned out to be the best spot in the arena.

If you missed it, you missed Malik Johnson’s finest performance as a Punahou hoopster, and you missed a chance to see all the intricate moving parts in Coach Darren Matsuda’s championship machine. But I also have to marvel at the job Darren Johnson and his staff did with the Red Raiders. They struggled at times in preseason, but they gradually built a monster Big Red Machine by the playoffs. Last night, they handle much of Punahou’s defensive pressure and had the favorites on their heels.

It was a great way to end the season. How do I know? It leaves me hungry for more.

More thoughts later. Need a night to load the remaining video footage. And sleep.

Paul Honda, Star-Advertiser



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