Final day of the Hawaiian Airlines/HHSAA Boys Basketball State Championships underway in frigid Blaisdell Arena. It’s about 65 degrees in here during consolation games (mostly empty). When the title games start, we’ll probably have about 2,500 fans here and it won’t be so chilly.
Maryknoll vs. Kalaheo
Ranking: Maryknoll (25-2) was at No. 2 two weeks ago, then vaulted to No. 1 after winning the ILH crown. Kalaheo (37-4) has been locked at No. 2 for a good stretch of the season and was at No. 1 recently. But after winning the OIA title, voters dropped the Mustangs to the second spot.
On paper: These teams never met in preseason, but have some of the toughest schedules. The top-seeded Spartans are bigger than just about anybody in the state with 6-9 Tobias Schramm, 6-5 Hyrum Harris and 6-4 Josh Burnett. That’s why this matchup intrigues. Maryknoll has a more traditional game — most times — while second-seeded Kalaheo has bigs like 6-3 Kalei Zuttermeister who can rain 3-pointers all night.
The Mustangs are 36-4, always game ready and, arguably, the team with the highest basketball IQ.
The skinny: The Spartans will play fast and slow, using Schramm as a tower of safety against opposing presses. His ability to see the floor, take care of the ball, and hit free throws are all massive bonuses in addition to his rebounding. Harris had 18 rebounds in the semifinal win over Baldwin. If the Mustangs aren’t hitting their perimeter shots, it will be difficult to get second chances. But if they’re hitting the 3-ball — sophomore Kupaa Harrison was clutch in the overtime win over Punahou — the Mustangs will be tough to chase.
Maryknoll’s youth — Kaleb Gilmore is a sophomore and Burnett is a junior — shows at times with iffy shot selection in close games and technical fouls. That would be costly against a veteran team like Kalaheo, which shoots 69 percent at the foul line.
X factor: Derick Morgan, Kalaheo’s lockdown defender, will likely cover Burnett, and vice-versa. Both are extremely valuable to their teams, particularly on defense. It’s Burnett who has picked up early fouls in some games lately.
St. Francis vs. Kailua
Ranking: St. Francis is at No. 10. Kailua is unranked.
On paper: The Saints (25-5) beat a very green Kailua squad in preseason. Kailua (16-8) has come a long way since then.
The skinny: Kailua has the athleticism and strength to hold its own nude the basket. Finding a way to keep the Saints’ Matthew Nuumanaia (6-5) under control. The Saints are at their best when Nuumanaia is touching the ball often, setting up teammates and hitting mid-range shots. Keoni Tom-Millare is a bull on the boards with a smooth perimeter shot. Guards Austin Ursua and Shabir Lynton have been through the ups and downs as part of the school’s first graduating class of boys.
Kailua has flown under the radar to an extent, if only because it’s been four years since they last won the D-II state tourney (under Tim Harrison). This year, they’ve developed with a strong senior class led by 6-3 guard Mason Youart, quick 5-9 guard Kekoa Ford and 6-1 banger Kirk Ronolo Jr.
Both teams are fun to watch, and both like fast, physical play.
X factor: Kailua isn’t loaded with pure shooters from the perimeter, so they get by with scrappy man-to-man defense and all-out hustle by their bigs underneath. That might be enough to keep them close for one night.