New City Nissan/HHSAA Boys Basketball State Championships
Kaiser (23-8, 7-4 OIA) vs. Kalani (11-16, 3-8 OIA)
Championship game, 5 p.m., Stan Sheriff Center
Results: These teams have met twice this season. The first time was the OIA East opener, a wild 78-77 win by Kalani at home. They met in the OIA Division II Final on a neutral court (McKinley) and Kaiser dominated in a 49-36 win.
This week, Kaiser, the No. 2 seed, edged Damien 61-58 and Kohala 50-47. Kalani topseed Pahoa 57-52, then toppled ILH champion Hawaii Baptist 37-32.
Rankings: Kaiser is ranked No. 10 in the Star-Advertiser Top 10. Kalani is unranked.
Skinny: The OIA East was tough from top to bottom this season, and that bore out in the state tourney as Kalaheo and Kahuku reached the D-I semifinals (with Kalaheo advancing to the final), and Farrington rising to win the OIA title. Kalani’s record may seem below average, but given their level of competition and the wins over elite teams by the OIA East, the Falcons aren’t a total surprise to reach the state D-II finals.
Kalani has a gunner in Alex Tungpalan, and overall their quickness and team speed are strengths. What they lack inside — their tallest player in the rotation is Juwon Bohannon, listed at 6-foot-2 — they make up for with quick transition and a lot of ball movement offensively. Cory Mitchell and Jaron Yamauchi, like Tungpalan, are seasoned senior leaders.
The Falcons have gotten a boost from freshman Kapaa Nishimura, another long-range shooter with provides some length and height (6-1), as well.
Kaiser has a stellar athlete in Chance Kalaugher, a 6-5 dunking machine. His ability to get off the ground and dominate the boards is rare in any classification, and even when he’s not scoring a lot, Kalaugher can control a game with his rebounding, defense and explosiveness. Defenses have to account for him, particularly on alley-oop lobs from guards Kelsey Lewis II and Nic Tom.
Keoua Mahiko, a 6-2 junior, has been a energizer who can score on the drive and from deep. This team has just two seniors, Lewis being one, and will likely be better next year with everyone returning.
X Factor: Post defense for Kalani. I’ve seen little teams like the Konawaena girls and the Farrington Governors (OK, not little, but relatively short) battle on box-outs to beat much bigger teams. If the Falcons show that kind of grit and willpower from start to finish, they’ve got a good chance to beat the Cougars again.
X Factor 2: Kaiser shot 13-for-33 at the line yesterday. Not good.
Pupule says: The Cougars are playing with immense confidence, and they know even if shots aren’t dropping, that they usually can control the defensive glass. Kalani could alter everything by shooting lights out. That could happen tonight.
Pupule pick: UPSET SPECIAL! Falcons 59, Kaiser 56.