Isaiah Lee’s 33 points leads Kalani over Campbell

Kalani's Isaiah Lee (3) went up for two of his game-high 33 points in an OIA first-round playoff win over Campbell. Photo by Steven Erler/Special to the Star-Advertiser.

That was perhaps the quietest 33 points ever, just the way Isaiah Lee and the Kalani Falcons like it.

Coming into the playoffs, the Kalani senior guard averaged 16 points per game in OIA East play, a very respectable number for a Falcons team that has a medium-rate pace. But even the patient, deliberate Falcons saw Lee have an occasional scoring outburst with 21 points against Kalaheo and 21 again against Kailua.

On Tuesday night, with potential playoff elimination looming, Kalani delivered with a 61-44 win over Campbell. Lee poured in 16 points before the second quarter and finished with a career-high 33. He did it efficiently, making 12 of his 15 field-goal attempts. He was 5-for-7 from the arc, including four treys in the first quarter. Lee was also 4-for-4 from the free-throw line, and added four rebounds, three assists and two steals with only one turnover.

“He did well, but Ryan (Higashionna) was finding him. Brandon (Chung) was kicking it out,” Kalani coach Everett Frye said. “A lot of guys are learning about Brandon. He’s kind of a force. Ryan is a pass-first guard and a lot of people benefit from it, and a lot of people don’t see it in the scorebook.”

Lee’s NBA-distance 3 beat the buzzer as Kalani opened a stunning 22-5 lead over the Sabers at the end of the opening quarter. Campbell was polar-vortex cold: 2-for-10 from the field in the first quarter and 1-for-13 in the second. Kalani increased the lead to 22 during the second quarter, and Campbell managed to cut the margin to 15 in the third.

After Chung (12 points, 13 rebounds) hit his only bucket of the third stanza, Lee finished the quarter with another clutch 3, and Kalani had a comfortable 46-28 lead entering the final period.

Kalani then became frugal, hoarding the ball out of a spread set and gobbling chunks off the clock.

“It’s taking open shots. We don’t want to take shots that could hurt us and that could give them runs,” Lee said.

It was a game plan that played out perfectly for the home team in white and red. Aggressive, quality shots early, and then force the defense to chase in the final quarter.

“We’ve been hearing about their 1-2-2 for awhile so we’ve been preparing for that and their 2-3. We want good shots and we’re going to get only drives and kicks or drives and dumps to our big. Get the zone teams out of their zone and make their bigs have to guard our little guards,” said Frye, who was a blazing-quick scoring guard for Kalani two decades ago.

Frye had plenty of fundamentals, scoring often in the 20s and 30s, but also brought a good deal of flash to the hardwood. Kalani doesn’t have shred of that slightly reckless style.

“A lot of these kids don’t play at the park anymore. But it’s good. They’re real structured and work really hard,” Frye said.

Aside from efficiency and energy, Kalani’s coaching staff emphasized a sense of urgency in a game that left the loser behind, done for the season.

“We told all the seniors, this is going to be your last (home) game, go out swinging,” Frye said. “Not just Isaiah, but all our seniors, all our players. If we’re going to lose, we’re going to go down missing, 0-for-30. We’re not so much worried about the effort anymore. We’re willing to lose if we’re taking shots. That’s just part of the game.”

They also did it with defense, limiting Campbell to 17-for-56 shooting from the field (30 percent).

With the win, Kalani (15-7 overall) is in the quarterfinals of the OIA playoffs. After all these years in D-II, winning the league title in ’18 under Frye and in ’17 under Nathan Davis, the Falcons certainly belong in the higher echelon.

“That’s always what we wanted to do, to compete,” Lee said. “It’s not really much of a difference. We play the same teams during regular season. The playoffs are harder, but it’s more competition and we like that.”

Kapolei, the first-place team from the OIA West, had a bye in Tuesday’s opening round. Now the Hurricanes will be rested for Wednesday’s battle with the visiting Falcons. The teams met on Dec. 20 at the Punahou Invitational, a 49-38 win for Kapolei.

“We were missing Brandon in that game, but they were missing Ja’Shon (Carter),” Lee noted. “We definitely have to focus on their best scorer, Ja’Shon. They’re really tall and lanky, so we’ve got to be smart with our shots and continue to shoot everything we have.”

Chung will be in a forest of tall Kapolei posts, but his size and strength are big advantages.

“Brandon uses his butt and his back a lot,” Lee said.

The OIA D-I quarterfinal winners will earn state-tournament berths. The losers will drop into the consolation bracket with one chance to enter the state tourney.

“We just hope we play our hardest and our shots are going,” Frye said. “On the road, you’re not as comfortable as you are at home. On the road, you have to be 10 points better. We’ve heard a lot about Ja’Shon Carter, he’s a good basketball player. Those kind of guys, it’s hard to stop them. We just want to make it hard for him. And they have (Nathaniel) Whitehurst.”

At Kalani
Campbell (13-15) 5 8 15 16 — 44
Kalani (15-7) 22 11 13 15 — 61
Campbell: Makana Ortiz 5, Mitchell Williams 13, Janus Gapusan 3, Robert Hutchinson 7, Titus Mokiao-Atimalala 0, Goddhey Jacalne 2, Kupono Akana 2, Byron Baker 4, Kaimana Preza 8.
Kalani: Zach Salas 0, Ryan Higashionna 4, Javan Montiho 7, Isaiah Lee 33, Logan Tanaka 2, Matt Saiki 0, Hunter Park 0, Steve Dole 2, Micah Kouchi 0, Landein Luke 0, Rylan Suzuki 1, Brandon Chung 12.
3-point goals: Campbell 4 (Williams 2, Gapusan, Hutchinson), Kalani 6 (Lee 5, Montiho).

OIA Playoffs

Updated: Feb. 13
First round
2/5Aiea (W4)*Roosevelt (E5)Roos, 69-47
2/5Kahuku (E3)Pearl City (W6)Kah, 49-36
2/5Leilehua (W3)Kalaheo (E6)Kalh, 53-47
2/5Kalani (E4)Campbell (W5)Kaln, 61-44
2/6Moanalua (E1)RooseveltMoan, 71-59
2/6Mililani (W2)KahukuKah, 39-29
2/6Kailua (E2)KalaheoKail, 58-55
2/6Kapolei (W1)KalaniKapo, 37-35 (OT)
Consolation semifinals—At Higher Seed
2/11MililaniRooseveltMil, 69-55
2/11KalaniKalaheoKalh, 62-43
Semifinals — At McKinley
2/11MoanaluaKahukuMoan, 66-58
2/11KailuaKapoleiKail, 60-58
Fifth place—At Higher Seed
2/13MililaniKalaheoKalh, 36-25
Third place—At Higher Seed
2/13KahukuKapoleiKapo, 68-64
Championship — At McKinley
2/13MoanaluaKailuaMoan, 56-49 (OT)
2/5Waianae (W2)Kaimuki (E3)Kaim, 48-31
2/5Kaiser (E2)Waipahu (W3)Kais, 61-42
2/6Farrington (E1)KaimukiFar, 75-47
2/6Nanakuli (W1)KaiserKais, 54-44
Championship— At McKinley
2/13FarringtonKaiserFar, 56-43
* — @ Roosevelt


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