It’s all about roles and timing right now for the red-hot Kapolei Hurricanes.
Ja’Shon Carter struggled from the field against a relentless Mililani defense, but he knew his job in the final seconds. After coming up with a steal, Carter and the ‘Canes worked the clock to set up the final shot in a 38-all game. His attempt in the lane, smothered by defenders, gave him no chance for a clean look. The ball squirted out and teammate Ethan Wright handled it like a lob pass, hanging in mid-air to bank the shot in at the buzzer as Kapolei escaped with a 40-38 win on Tuesday night at home.
Kapolei is now 9-0 in the Oahu Interscholastic Association West, and Mililani took its first loss after eight conference wins.
Wright knew he needed to stay in the paint and be prepared for anything. The tall, lanky forward stayed inside the right block as Carter drove into the lane.
“We’ve been on him to step up all year,” Hurricanes coach Gary Ellison said.
Carter knew his job was to do all he could against a tough defense to get a look at the hoop.
“He’s our leader. He’s our captain,” Wright said shortly before senior-night festivities began.
“I gotta get these guys going,” Carter said moments before joining his classmates for their final shots. “I know what it feels like. It’s been four years.”
Carter’s seven points is one of the lowest outputs in his four years as a starting guard, but the beauty of a victory wasn’t lost on Kapolei. Especially when it comes to life in the unpredictable OIA West, where Ellison’s teams have won 32 consecutive regular-season games.
“I don’t keep track of it. I didn’t know it until you said,” Ellison said. “We take one game at a time. I’ve been saying that for years.”
The streak almost came to an end on this night after Mililani rallied from a 36-31 deficit with a 7-0 run in the second half. They limited Carter to 3-for-12 shooting, using a multitude of different defenders to stick with him everywhere.
“Defensively, they did something we didn’t expect,” Ellison said. “They played tough defense. They’ve made a huge improvement since preseason. Coach (Garrett) Gabriel has them playing great defense. It’s the toughest I’ve seen in the West in years.”
The Trojans were heartbroken after the game, but Gabriel is looking forward.
“We tried to shut down Carter. It’s a bittersweet loss, but I’m proud of my kids,” the former Hawaii/Pac-Five football and Maryknoll basketball standout said.
Kapolei did enough offensively, shooting 4-for-10 from the 3-point arc and committing just 12 turnovers. Mililani missed opportunities at the free-throw line, hitting just 7-for-18.
Kapolei has won 12 games in a row, including three at the tail end of preseason, and they’re a different team with Carter back from an ankle injury.
Mililani is 0-5 against the Top 10, including a 47-46 loss to No. 1 Maryknoll, Gabriel’s alma mater, in preseason.
Mililani (11-7, 8-1) 12 11 8 7 — 38
Kapolei (14-7, 9-0) 13 7 9 11 — 40
Mililani: Kanoa Gibson 2, Tyler Marquina 0, Isaac Chang 5, Jace Pastel 11, Ethan Rudometkin 11, Trey Lieb 4, Dayvon Appleby 5.
Kapolei: Ikaika Kamelamela 0, Mateo Veazie 3, Nathaniel Whitehurst 10, Ja’Shon Carter 7, Kevin Burkel 3, De’Zhaun Stribling 5, Ethan Wright 4, Tyler Jordan 2, Andrew Jones 6.
3-point goals: 5 (Pastel 3, Rudometkin, Lieb), Mililani 4 (Whitehurst, Carter, Burkel, Stribling).