I saw nothing on Friday. Then I watched 27 games over the next five days and it was Christmas Day over and over.
Friday was opening day of the ‘Iolani Classic, but an ILH girls showdown between No. 1 Maryknoll and No. 2 Kamehameha was a must-see.
On Saturday, I got to see Fairfax coached by Steve Baik for the first time. They won by 50. He’s good. They’re good. Jefferson walloped their foe. Montverde hung 95 on its opponent. Greensboro Day scored a modest 59, but that’s because Maryknoll hung pretty tough with the Bengals, who went on to place fifth.
From Monday on it was morning to night hoops and I missed 1.5 games out of 24. Contrary to what some may believe, the consolation bracket is not meaningless. Lahainaluna played its collective hearts out, beating Pearl City and Moanalua before losing to Maryknoll.
In turn, Maryknoll rolled over Kalaheo, rallied for a 46-45 thriller over Kapolei and then outlasted the Lunas.
Kapolei? After an erratic preseason coming into the tourney, the Hurricanes were healthy for the first time in ages. That led to a win over Kamehameha, a near-upset of Maryknoll, and a final-day rout of Moanalua. They were hungry in every game, and that was worth seeing regardless of what bracket they were in. Kapolei is ranked No. 9 in the Star-Advertiser Boys Basketball Top 10. In retrospect, their talent level is more like Top 4 or 5, and they played like it this week.
Gary Ellison might even smile when no one’s looking.
Leilehua is another team that found its footing. The Mules have been inconsistent through nonconference play, but with Liam Fitzgerald (ankle) out, they found some grit and trust though battles with Moanalua, Pearl City and Kamehameha.
Here’s a synopsis of local teams that played in the Classic.
Kalaheo Mustangs (16th place)
L 78-54 Bishop O’Dowd (Calif.)
L 62-43 No. 3 Maryknoll
L 55-46 No. 2 Kamehameha
L 48-45 Pearl City
The talent and balance are there on this roster. With the OIA regular-season opener at Kahuku looming on Saturday, was it better to have a elite competition and some adversity over the past week? Or would it have better to schedule lesser opponents? The answer depends on how Kalaheo responds.
Pearl City Chargers (15th place)
L 55-52 No. 4 ‘Iolani
L 61-26 Lahainaluna
L 35-29 Leilehua
W 48-45 No. 8 Kalaheo
The Chargers play hard by law. Lionel Villarmia lays down that law and his team follows. They’ve got some size, but more than that, the Chargers attack the rim and play fundamentally sound basketball. That’s Villarmia’s expectation. Kalaheo was missing half its team, but Pearl City still rallied for the win with clutch shots and teamwork in the fourth quarter.
Leilehua Mules (14th place)
L 83-33 Fairfax (Los Angeles)
L 55-51 No. 10 Moanalua
W 35-29 Pearl City
L 47-33 No. 2 Kamehameha
Without Fitzgerald (ankle) in the latter two games, the Mules mustered 35 and 33 points. The good news is that they’ve resilient as a team. 6-6 senior Elijah Robinson is a game changer in the paint. Jaymond Agdinaoay has been consistent offensively. Noah Park has shown flashes of becoming a consistent zone-buster from the arc.
Kamehameha Warriors (13th place)
L 77-48 Taft (Calif.)
L 57-51 No. 9 Kapolei
W 55-46 No. 8 Kalaheo
W 47-33 Leilehua
The Warriors went deep and stayed deep in their reserve pool during the Classic. I still don’t know if Kamehameha and Maryknoll really wanted to play each other in any preseason game, and that would’ve happened maybe if the Warriors don’t give extended playing time to reserve players during the Kapolei game. But it worked out for the best, and the guys who ended up gaining game experience should be better prepared during the regular season.
Moanalua Na Menehune (12th place)
L 99-53 Rainier Beach (Seattle)
W 55-51 Leilehua
L 68-57 Lahainaluna
L 67-54 No. 9 Kapolei
Uneven performance by Na Menehune, who have talent and just enough size to compete with any team. This has been another adventure. Last year’s team lost its first handful of games, including some close battles at the OIA-ILH Challenge. This season, they won their first seven games, including wins over Hayward (Calif.) and Lahainaluna. Since then, they’ve lost six of their last seven, including one to a much-improved Lahainaluna squad. Coach Byron Mello has been through this before and he will persevere. Question is, are all his players in? They trailed Lahainaluna 21-3 and Kapolei 18-7 before waking up. Of all the teams in the Classic, this was the only one that let itself get pushed around in the paint. The bright spot is 6-5 sophomore DiAeris McRaven, who battled bigger posts throughout the tourney. He didn’t get much help defensively. When a team’s reserves play tougher than its starters, that’s not usually a good thing. If that sounds rude, it’s not meant to be. I’ve got plenty of video footage to back it up. Just a little more toughness, big blue.
Kapolei Hurricanes (11th place)
L 103-54 Jefferson (Portland, Ore.)
W 57-51 No. 2 Kamehameha
L 46-45 No. 3 Maryknoll
W 67-54 No. 10 Moanalua
With their backcourt relatively healthy and back on the court, the Hurricanes were closer to form this week. All the pieces are there, from versatile 6-4 senior Zoar Nedd to hulking 6-7 (6-8?) center Julius Buelow to stretch 5 Marquis Montgomery. The added bonus was the tremendous effectiveness of a 3-2 zone featuring Nedd in the middle. After starting the season at No. 9 in the Star-Advertiser Top 10, they played more like a No. 2 or 3. My guess is voters will boost the ‘Canes to No. 5 or 6 in the upcoming poll.
Lahainaluna Lunas (10th place)
L 95-27 Montverde (Fla.)
W 61-26 Pearl City
W 68-57 No. 10 Moanalua
L 51-42 No. 3 Maryknoll
The Lunas took a huge leap forward offensively. This offense looks nothing like the one that struggled three weeks ago at the James Alegre Invitational. Much of that has to do with 6-4 center Koa Evalu Robinson, who is also known for his prowess on the football field as a first-time player last fall. His future might be as a college defensive end, though he has the girth and the burst to be a 3-technique. His footwork and hands, plus his height and size, make him one of the top posts in the state. The Lunas are playing like a Top 10 team now. Let’s see if the voters see it that way. Please vote, Rob Collias.
Maryknoll Spartans (ninth place)
L 59-33 Greensboro Day (N.C.)
W 62-42 No. 8 Kalaheo
W 46-45 No. 9 Kapolei
W 51-42 Lahainaluna
The Spartans got a taste of Kapolei’s 3-2 zone and had to rally for the close win in one of the Classic’s best battles. Depth is a major advantage, and Isiah Gelacio has stepped up as a consistently clutch shooter. That was a major plus with the tourney’s shot clock.
‘Iolani Raiders (eighth place)
W 55-25 Pearl City
L 89-43 Montverde (Fla.)
L 71-42 Rainier Beach (Seattle)
L 62-47 Taft (Calif.)
The Raiders faced more mainland teams than any local team in the tourney. Through the bumps, they found some growth. They also found varying levels of inconsistency when they faced strong defensive pressure. One of the key factors in their state-title run two seasons ago was identifying someone who would attack the rim efficiently to score and create opportunities for teammates. In an ILH where most teams practice man-to-man defense as a basketball religion, this is a question mark. So is finding someone who can give the team 12-14 points every game in the post. The opportunities will be there.