This is the longer version of the Kalaheo-Kahuku game wrap in this morning’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser (subscriber content).
Kupaa Harrison has a penchant for stepping up in the clutch.
The 6-foot-5 senior scored 19 points, including a fastbreak 3-point bomb to give his team the lead for good with 1:27 left as Kalaheo edged Kahuku 36-35 in a thriller at Stan Sheriff Center.
The win propelled unseeded Kalaheo (30-3, 13-1), the OIA’s third-place team, into the finals of the New City Nissan/HHSAA Boys Basketball Division I State Championships. The Mustangs will meet defending champion ‘Iolani at 7 p.m.
Little more than a week ago, Kalaheo and Kahuku were ranked No. 1 and 2 in the state. After losing in the OIA playoffs to Farrington, they wound up in a tough bracket with top seed Punahou, marking what some coined the “group of death.”
Harrison’s go-ahead trey wasn’t the end of the drama. After Keanu Akina missed a runner, Kalaheo got the rebound and was able to run time off the clock. However, Kaleb Gilmore, still playing after injuring his right ankle in the opening minutes, lost control of the ball after colliding with Kahuku’s Denhym Brooke with 9.6 seconds left.
After conferring, officials determined that it was Kahuku’s possession, though Gilmore later said the ball went off Brooke’s knee.
The Red Raiders called two time outs to set up an inbounds play from midcourt. Their first option, an alley-oop lob to Samuta Avea, was not available. With time running out, Akina drove through the top and tossed up a double-pump scoop shot from the left elbow. His shot hit the front of the rim and fell off, and Kesi Ah-Hoy’s follow shot was too late, missing anyway.
The shot was reminiscent, if not more clutch, of Harrison’s cold-blooded shooting two years ago as a role player on Kalaheo’s 2013 title team.
“They kept jamming our break, but they only had two or three guys back,” Harrison said. “It just happened that way. Kaleb got a lot of attention and we wanted to get the ball on the wing. I got it and luckily it went down.”
Playing all 32 minutes, Harrison shot 7-for-12 from the field, hitting two huge 3-pointers in the second half to spark the Mustangs, who shot just 23 percent from the field in the first half. Gilmore finished with just four points, but came up with eight assists and four steals on his wobbly ankle.
Brooke, a 6-7 senior forward, led Kahuku (18-5, 12-2) with 14 points, nine boards and two blocks. Hyrum Harris, their 6-6 senior center, was in foul trouble all night and played just 16 minutes. The Mustangs battled him on the high and low posts, forcing him to drive.
“We wanted to make Harris put the ball on the floor,” Kalaheo coach Alika Smith said. “We didn’t want him making those (lob) passes to Brooke.”
Harris finished with three points on 3-for-4 shooting at the foul line. He didn’t record a field-goal attempt and had six turnovers. Avea added six points, seven boards and two blocks, and Tama Green finished with six points.
The game was tied at 33 in the final 2 minutes when Ah-Hoy stripped the ball from Gilmore, and Green fed Brooke for a breakaway dunk with 1:49 to play. Immediately, Gilmore raced upcourt, drew defenders and kicked the ball to Harrison, who knocked down a 3 from the left wing for the go-ahead points and a 36-35 lead.
Now it’s Kalaheo and ‘Iolani in the final for the first time since 2001, when coach Pete Smith guided the Mustangs to a 68-60 win. ‘Iolani has won 10 state titles with three runner-up finishes. Kalaheo has five state crowns with six second-place finishes.
“Discipline. ‘Iolani is a good team and is battle-tested through the ILH,” Smith said. “We’ve got to come out ready to play. The team with the most will, and what’s in between the ears, will win the game.”
The Red Raiders shot 39 percent from the field (10-for-26) and 86 percent from the foul line (12-for-14), but were hamstrung by 20 turnovers against Kalaheo’s man and 2-3 zone defenses. Gilmore was especially effective in the second half when the Mustangs extended their zone to pressure Kahuku’s ballhandlers near midcourt.
Kalaheo shot 38 percent from the field (14-for-37) and was just 4-for-8 from the foul line. The Mustangs had just 11 turnovers.
Kahuku had a 26-14 advantage on the boards.
Like the earlier semifinal between ‘Iolani and Campbell, the Mustangs and Red Raiders were locked in a defensive duel in the first half. Harris picked up his second foul with 36 seconds left in the opening quarter and sat the remainder of the half. Harrison’s baseline jumper with 2 seconds left tied the game at 6 to end the first quarter.
Still, Kahuku’s 2-3 matchup zone posed problems for Kalaheo. The Mustangs shot 2-for-11 from the field in the first 8 minutes, but were tied at 6 entering the second quarter. Kahuku went on a 6-0 run, getting steals for layups by Tama Green and Alohi Gilman.
Kalaheo tied the game on treys by Zach Marrotte and Harrison, but Avea answered with an NBA-range 3 to give the Red Raiders a 15-12 lead. Reserve forward Kesi Ah-Hoy’s baseline jumper pushed the margin to give points.
The Mustangs salvaged the quarter when Kekai Smith drove for a layup with 1 second remaining in the half, pulling his team within 17-14 at intermission.
Kalaheo shot 5-for-22 in the first half. Gilmore, who scored 25 points in a quarterfinal win over top-seeded Punahou, had two points on 1-for-5 shooting. After taking 39 free-throw attempts against Punahou, Kalaheo had four in the first half against Kahuku, making two.
At Stan Sheriff Center
KAHUKU 6 11 8 10 — 35
KALAHEO 6 8 9 13 — 36
KAHUKU–Kesi Ah-Hoy 2, Alohi Gilman 2, Tamamoko Green 6, Keanu Akina 2, Samuta Avea 6, Denhym Brooke 14, Hyrum Harris 3.
KALAHEO–Zachary Marrotte 3, Kekai Smith 7, Alexander Macleod 3, Captain Whitlock 0, Kaleb Gilmore 4, Jalen Kuhia Smith 0, Kupaa Harrison 19.
3-point goals–Kahuku 3 (Avea 2, Green). Kalaheo 4 (Harrison 2, Macleod, Marrotte).