It’s Aloha Friday and I’m finally caught up.
What does that mean? Between connecting dots and helping out on our All-State Football package which will come out Sunday, and covering as much girls and boys basketball as possible, there are plenty of takeaways to be made on roundball. And now that this head cold is clearing up, my brain is catching up, too. On Thursday, I was pretty sure it was Wednesday. And on Wednesday, it felt like Tuesday. That’s what happens when we have Monday-through-Wednesday tournaments, and step right into the Thursday-to-Saturday events.
Punahou won the St. Francis Holiday Hoops Classic on Wednesday night, turning a close game into a runaway against the host Saints. Again, balanced scoring, aggressive defense, extreme ball movement in the paint, around the perimeter. It’s become contagious to the point where the Buffanblu sometimes overpass. It’s a winning recipe, though. The best 3-and-D player so far might be Kaulana Makaula, a 6-foot-3 senior who drilled two early treys against St. Francis. He scored 10 points, had an exclamation-point block to end the first half, and four Buffanblu scored in double figures.
The Kordel Ng Experience
He’s only human, but when necessary, Kordel Ng can be superhuman. Try 21 second-half points in a win over Moanalua on Dec. 6. Then try 25 first-half points against No. 1 Punahou on Wednesday. He can be a creator with dimes all night. He can take anyone one-on-one to the rack. And he’s doing it with a broken right pinky finger, his non-shooting hand.
Sure. He finished the Moanalua game with 28 points. He had six points in the second half against Punahou’s swarming fullcourt pressure. He doesn’t duplicate the supernatural heroics in two halves. What would you expect? He’s only a junior, a 5-9 guard who is a workout fanatic, was dunking on bigger defenders as a sophomore, and kept his team in the game against Punahou with his vision and ballhandling against the press, along with the avalanche of points. If anything in the boys preseason thus far has been otherworldly, it has been Ng’s ability to rise above every circumstance.
And when older brother Kameron Ng returns from his severe ankle sprain, St. Francis will have full pyrotechnics on offense. Kameron got in a shooting workout after the final game on Wednesday. The lift is there, but landing on the injured ankle is still a problem. A doctor said he would need 10 weeks for full healing. He seems to be aiming more for a return in time for the Saints’ last two tournaments, including the ‘Iolani Classic next week.
Here’s what I wrote after the first three games of the girls ‘Iolani Prep Classic on Thursday, all lopsided games.
>> Incarnate Word (St. Louis, Mo.) has been the most impressive and balanced team. The best two guards have been Marissa Warren (IWA) and Taylor Wu (‘Iolani). Warren scored 18 points, including 13 in the third quarter as IWA pulled away from Kalani. Wu scored 18 in a win over Kaiser, splashing four treys.
>> Best post: IWA’s Rickie Woltman, a 6-4 banger who had 20/7 against Kalani.
>> Also notable: Kiki Britzmann of IWA (14 points); Nikki Tom, Aari’yanna Sanders, Champney Pulliam and Madison Campbell of Clovis West (Calif.); Jovi Lefotu, Alexsandra Huntimer and Alexis Huntimer of ‘Iolani; Kalena Halunajan, Kamalu Kamakawiwo‘ole, Kandyce Woods of Kalani.
Then came Pinewood (Los Altos, Calif.) and Lahainaluna, so here are my additions.
Hannah Jump, a 5-11 senior, has the quickest shooting release in the tournament. In the 3-point contest being held during each halftime segment, she was on fire. She’s not the best shooter right now, but if she can keep getting good looks, watch out. Similar in that sense to Campbell of Clovis West. The stroke is there.
Kiara Alstrom was steady, as well, for the Panthers. They don’t have a go-to scorer who needs to have 25 points for the team to win, so individual play isn’t a priority. But this team has several key players.
The Lunas didn’t have a single standout on opening night and that could easily change in the consolation rounds. Susitina Namoa got into early foul trouble and never got unleashed on offense.
I blogged that the Pinewood Panthers have a shooting method, every single player, that reduces the catch-to-release time to 0.5 seconds. That’s what Coach Doc Scheppler says. When I chatted with him after the game, he said that his obsession (my definition) with shooting led him to become a shooting coach, and a shooter who gets into a dip, squares up, both feet balanced before catching the ball is the way he teaches. I’m paraphrasing, and if you want to see what he teaches, it’s on YouTube.
But the math he has done is real. Reducing the touch time on a basketball for a shooter by one-tenths of a second is basically 10 feet of coverage for a defender. Makes sense. If a shooter needs .8 of a second to catch and release, that extra three-tenths of a second gives a defender from the paint enough time to get out and contest a shot.
Interestingly enough, the Panthers didn’t shoot extremely well, but their constant-motion offense got them good looks against a physical Lunas defense in a 55-19 win. Lahainaluna is ranked No. 4 statewide, a solid team with some inexperience, some veterans and a bonafide Player of the Year candidate in Susitina Namoa.
In week one at McKinley’s Matsumoto Law Group Black & Gold Classic, the Lunas lost to Maryknoll by 18, ‘Iolani by 14, then beat Kamehameha by 7. Then came a 1-point win over Hilo at the Konawaena Invitational and a FOUR-OVERTIME win over host Konawaena. The next day, Namoa’s achy knee prevailed and she sat for most of a nine-point loss to Kalani.
Pinewood took all the wind out of the Lunas’ sails on Thursday with a superb man defense. Absolutely no slackers on defense, every shot contested. That’s how every mainland team defended on Thursday, as if every possession was life or death. I’d be surprised if every mainland team at next week’s boys ‘Iolani Classic does the same.
Warriors marching ahead
In another “What in the world?” twist, the Kamehameha Warriors are looking completely like a championship squad. Their 68-64 overtime win over Maryknoll at Kekuhaupio Gymnasium on Wednesday is another signature win for center Kalina Obrey, the seasoned veteran on the roster, and head coach Pua Straight.
Straight, the daughter of former Kalaheo and Maryknoll assistant coach David Furtado, embraces a fast tempo, but is also flexible enough to let her team play slower. The win at ‘Iolani last week? Slower pace, allowing her alpha scorers to attack man defense in their rhythm. The pressing Spartans came to Kamehameha, and both teams ran in a game I wish I could’ve seen.
That gives Kamehameha a 3-0 mark in ILH play with a home game against Punahou set for Saturday. If the win over ‘Iolani wasn’t enough to push the Warriors to the No. 1 ranking, it would be hard to argue against them now.
The other side of Wednesday’s game on the hill: Maryknoll would be 2-1 in league play with a play or two in the positive rather than negative in the OT loss. This is a senior-less team competing at the highest level of the toughest league. So, 1-2 just sounds not good, and Coach Chico Furtado — Straight’s uncle — doesn’t want to be two games behind the frontrunner team, but in reality, it’s unlikely any team goes unbeaten in the ILH this year. 10-2 should win it, though 9-3 is a real possibility. Injuries always play a role.