Three tournament championships were on the line today. Two have already been settled: Huipu (China) took the Walter Wong Invitational and Lahainaluna defeated Chestermere (Canada) in the St. Francis Holiday Hoops final.
Top-ranked Punahou hosts No. 4 Kalaheo in the final of the Punahou Invitational tonight at Hemmeter Fieldhouse.
End Q1: Kalaheo 12, Punahou 8
The Buffanblu started slow, but drive-and-dish plays by guards Dayson Watanabe and Jordan Tanuvasa against Kalaheo’s man defense were just too easy. The Mustangs are looking clunky at the end of the first quarter against Punahou’s man. I’m surprised the Buffanblu aren’t pounding the ball inside more against Kalaheo’s thin frontcourt. Getting Kalaheo stud Kupaa Harrison, who said last night that his injured ankle is at about “70 percent,” would seem like the right move. Hasn’t happened.
Halftime: Kalaheo 18, Punahou 14
PGs for both sides with turnovers on sloppy passes in the paint. Does anybody know what a bounce pass is anymore? Just a grouchy old baller here when I see stuff like that. Average players use chest passes in the paint and get punished. One-handed passes are the worst — in most situations — and there have been too many by these talented, senior guards on the floor. This may be a preview of the state championship game, by the way.
Final: Kalaheo 41, Punahou 40
For all the clunky basketball of the first half, the second half was classic. More great defense, but some clutch plays by both sides. Kalaheo had the ball with a four-point lead in the final 2 minutes and nearly gave the game away.
Dayson Watanabe (12 points) hit an NBA-range 3 from the right wing to bring Punahou within 39-38, and the Buffanblu later took a 40-39 lead on two free throws by J.B. Kam (seven points).
Kalaheo, which had fumbled the ball away numerous times against Punahou’s furious fullcourt press, had 8.6 seconds to salvage a win. They got the ball in to Kaleb Gilmore, who drove the length of the court, drew two defenders on the left side and threw up a prayer.
It was answered by Alec MacLeod on the other side of the hoop. He leaped for the carom off the glass and put the ball in with 1 second to play for a 41-40 lead. Punahou called time out, and then another one, before Micah Ma‘a’s long pass downcourt was intercepted by Gilmore and time ran out.
Zach Marrotte had a solid game with 10 points, including two treys, and though Kupaa Harrison scored just six points, he was key to Kalaheo’s defense. He was on Kam most of the night, and Kam finished with just seven points as Kalaheo clogged the passing lanes. ‘Akahi Troske added eight points.
Great game. The second half had the atmosphere of a state-tourney matchup, though I’ll add this: Kalaheo’s 15 or so loud fans never stopped cheering in the second half, while Punahou’s hundreds of students basically sat on their hands for the entire game. There were about 1,000 fans here tonight, and it felt like a Kalaheo home game.
That should change once Canton Kaumatule gets back from the mainland and his football trips. He’s one of the most vocal fans in the bleachers when the Buffanblu play at Hemmeter Fieldhouse. I suppose Semisi Uluave will be equally energized when he gets back, too.