(Here’s the long version of the game story of ‘Iolani-Kamehameha boys basketball on Saturday. See the shorter version with the boxscore here.)
There may not be another 1-2 combo in the paint as good as Duke Pauli and Gabriel Vega.
Instead of sheer power, however, it was finesse that made the difference yesterday. Pauli’s lob pass to Vega gave No. 2 ‘Iolani the lead with 5.5 seconds left in overtime, and Dyrbe Enos missed a tough 18-footer from the corner as time expired as the Raiders outlasted No. 2 Kamehameha 55-54.
“It was open earlier, but I just wasn’t hitting it,” Pauli said of the feed to his 6-foot-7 teammate. “Coming off that loss to AOP, I’m glad we stepped up for this game.”
Another defeat, especially after that two-point loss to front-running AOP on Thursday, would have been a severe blow to ‘Iolani’s title hopes. Instead, a raucous crowd of about 400 at the Raiders’ gym saw coach Dean Shimamoto’s squad improve to 5-3 in league play (10-8 overall). Kamehameha (15-6, 5-3) fell into a tie with the Raiders.
Both teams trail Academy of the Pacific (7-1) and Punahou (7-1), the co-leaders in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu. Maryknoll (5-3) as the second round of play begins. With four more games, the top two teams will earn state-tournament berths. A third berth will be determined by a playoff tournament.
“Our chances of first or second are slimmer now. We just don’t control our destiny now,” Nakanishi said. “We need help.”
Pauli was a one-man wrecking crew in the low post with 20 points on 8-for-9 shooting. After Kamehameha switched to a 2-3 zone to contain the 6-foot-3 senior, the lanes opened up for Vega, who finished with 18 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
“Give those two big guys credit,” Kamehameha coach Julian Nakanishi said. “They made nice plays.”
Vega feels the momentum building for his team.
“I know we have not done very good this season, but this team is definitely in stride. We’re really starting to learn how to play as a family,” he said.
The go-ahead play, which began with Pauli at the top of the key, was called earlier in the game. Pauli didn’t make the pass in those instances, which actually turned out to be a positive in the last seconds of overtime.
Austin O’Leary added 10 points for ‘Iolani, including a clutch, game-tying 3 with 7.4 seconds to go in regulation. Kamehameha had a chance to win it before the buzzer when Enos drove into traffic and was fouled with eight-tenths of a second remaining.
However, the normally reliable sharpshooter was short on his 1-and-1 attempt, and time expired.
“We’ll continue to work and hope for the best,” Enos said. “‘Iolani played well together as a team. They did a good job on defense.”
The Raiders used a mix of man, 1-3-1 and version of a box-and-1 defense to disrupt Kamehameha’s normally fluid offensive flow. Enos finished 4-for-14 from the field for 13 points, missing all five of his 3-point tries. Makoa Camanse-Stevens had a team-high 18 points, six assists and four steals.
The Warriors shot just 35 percent from the floor (19-for-55), including 35 percent from the 3-point arc (8-for-23), but made up for it with 13 offensive boards. A torrent of missed cutbacks, though, were costly. The Warriors had four offensive boards in overtime, but shot 1-for-8 in the extra period.
“We’ve just got to be able to make a layup,” Nakanishi said.
‘Iolani led most of the way in regulation, taking a 36-29 lead on a baseline jumper by Vega. The Warriors surged ahead 49-48 on J.T. Campbell’s 3-pointer with 1:42 to go in regulation, their first lead since the opening quarter. After two free throws by Camanse-Stevens, the visitors seemed to have control until O’Leary’s key 3-pointer over the zone.
‘Iolani outrebounded Kamehameha 24-18, but committed 16 turnovers to Kamehameha’s six. The Raiders shot 59 percent from the field (19-for-32) and 93 percent from the foul line (14-for-15).
Pauli and Vega were exceptional at the free-throw line, combining to shoot 8-for-8 in the fourth quarter. Vega finished the contest 8-for-9 at the stripe.
“To see it all coming together now is great,” Shimamoto said. “Even with the losses we’ve had, we’re doing a lot of good things. We’re young, we’re inexperienced, but everything that’s happened in the preseason and the regular season has taught us a lot.”
It was the first meeting of the season for the two powerhouse programs. After struggling with six turnovers in the opening quarter against Kamehameha’s tough man defense, the Raiders settled down.
Paul Honda, Star-Advertiser