The final night of the big dance. Here’s a pupule look.
New City Nissan/HHSAA Boys Basketball State Championships
‘Iolani (18-7, 8-4 ILH) vs. Kalaheo (30-3, 13-1 OIA)
Championship game, 7 p.m., Stan Sheriff Center
Results: The Raiders, runners-up from the ILH, rallied past Leilehua 37-36 in the opening round, ousted MIL champ Lahainaluna 44-34 in the quarterfinals, and got a come-from-behind 29-27 win over Campbell in the semifinals.
The Mustangs, ranked first for most of the season in the Star-Advertiser Top 10, lost in the OIA semifinals and finished third in the league. They beat MIL runner-up Maui 77-65 in the opening round and top-seeded Punahou 64-48 in the quarterfinals. Kalaheo edged Kahuku, the OIA runner-up, 36-35, in the semifinals.
‘Iolani and Kalaheo have not met this season.
These teams last met in the state final in 2001, when Kalaheo won 68-60 under the late Pete Smith. ‘Iolani, the defending state champion, has won 10 state titles and has three runner-up finishes. Kalaheo has five state crowns and six second-place finishes.
Rankings: ‘Iolani is ranked No. 5 Top 10. Kalaheo is ranked third. Both teams are unseeded.
Skinny: The Raiders aren’t the team they were last year, when they changed pace at midseason and became a grinder team. This year’s squad has been grinding since the start, running selectively, but mostly executing in halfcourt sets.
That style and commitment is what makes coach Dean Shimamoto a chess master of the game. In last night’s win against Campbell, they were down eight points near the end of one of the quarters and opted to hold the ball in the last minute for one shot. There are few coaches willing to do that — trust in his players over the long haul.
Hugh Hogland has played big as his 6-foot-8 frame in key stretches. He hasn’t put together two halves in this tourney yet, but he’s done more than enough. Erik Yamada, Zach Gelacio and Pikai Winchester have held down the backcourt. The Raiders can play at a slower pace because they take great care of the basketball and get maximum opportunities at high-percentage shots.
Having guys like Hogland, 6-4 Kamu Borden, and 6-1 Robby Mann helps.
The Mustangs are probably glad to play a slower tempo tonight. Guard Kaleb Gilmore hurt his ankle going after a rebound early in yesterday’s semifinal thriller against Kahuku. He had difficulty with the injury and couldn’t move well at halftime, but as Kupaa Harrison said after the game, Gilmore gutted it out.
Gilmore is a huge part of what the Mustangs do defensively, a quick thief who can dominate ballhandlers with weak handles. His ability to blow past good defenders is unmatched in the islands with the possible exception of Farrington’s Ranan Mamiya. And Gilmore is a great foul shooter. He made 16 of his 17 attempts in the win over Punahou.
And yet, the Mustangs have shown this week that they can hold their own when Gilmore is on the bench. He was in foul trouble against Punahou and played just 19 minutes (and still scored 25 points), and Kalaheo’s core of Kekai Smith, Alec MacLeod and Harrison kept running things smoothly for the most part. Their bench, with young guns Captain Whitlock and Ashton Arnold, has proven worthy in crunch time. They beat the top seed, which was the team that won the ILH, not ‘Iolani.
X Factor: In a game this even, a lot will hinge on how the game is called. If it’s called by the book, as was the case in the Punahou-Kalaheo game, the penetration skills of Kalaheo will be valuable. They took 39 foul shots against Punahou (and made 31), but the opposite was true against Kahuku, which ran a zone all game long.
If the officials allow some bumping and “impeding” of speed, rhythm and progress, ‘Iolani’s tight man defense will get a boost. But so will Kalaheo’s man defense.
Pupule says: Kalaheo’s defense has been superb all week long. Harrison is exactly the kind of stretch 4/5 that will give Hogland a major challenge. Up to this point, the Raiders haven’t allowed more than 40 points in a game, but Kalaheo is a different animal, willing to go five out to create openings.
That will go a long way tonight.
Pupule pick: Mustangs 41, Raiders 39, OT.