Kalaheo pounds No. 1 Punahou (extended)

Kalaheo's Jalen Smith and Punahou's Akahi Troske battled for position in the post. Bruce Asato / Star-Advertiser
Kalaheo’s Jalen Smith and Punahou’s Akahi Troske battled for position in the post. Bruce Asato / Star-Advertiser

This is the extended story on Thursday’s quarterfinal matchup at the boys basketball state tourney. The published story is in this morning’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser. (subscriber content)

This time, it wasn’t quite so close.

When they last met, Kalaheo needed a buzzer-beating putback by Alec MacLeod to edge Punahou in the final of the Punahou Invitational two months ago.

On Thursday, Kalaheo left no doubt with a resounding 64-48 victory over the top-seeded Buffanblu in the quarterfinals of the New City Nissan/HHSAA Boys Basketball Division I State Championships.

With the stunning outcome, that meant all four seeded teams were ousted on Wednesday.
Kaleb Gilmore led Kalaheo with 25 points, including 16-for-17 at the foul line. Kupaa Harrison had 12 points (8-for-11 at the line) and nine boards, and Kekai Smith was steady with 14 points while Gilmore (19 minutes played) rode the pine with foul trouble much of the night.

Dayson Watanabe finished with 23 points to lead Punahou, the ILH champion. J.B. Kam added 11 points. Punahou shot just 39 percent from the field, including 5-for-20 from the arc.

A hearty crowd of about 2,000 watched at Moanalua High School gym as Kalaheo, the third-place team from the OIA, took a 32-22 lead into the half.

The Mustangs (29-3, 13-1 OIA) maintained a double-digit lead going into the final quarter. Kalaheo fans held their breath, expecting a massive run by the tourney favorite, but Punahou got no closer than nine points.

After Kam drove left and completed a three-point play, Punahou (23-4, 11-1 ILH) trailed 44-35 with 4:32 remaining. But that’s when Gilmore returned to the floor. Gilmore, who sat big chunks of the game due to foul trouble — officials called it tight on both end most of the night — came in and put some vigor into Kalaheo’s delay offense.

“They were calling it a little tight, but they called it both ways and that’s how it is,” Gilmore said. “My team didn’t need me at all today. Every day at practice, we all run the same plays five on five. We get a feel for it and it’s not something new for any of us.”

The senior, who transferred from Maryknoll in the offseason, carved up Punahou’s pressure defense and hit all eight of his free-throw attempts in the final 4:14. His fresh legs were a nice bonus, but it was also Kalaheo’s ability to run clock with Harrison as a point forward — while Gilmore was out — that proved to be surprisingly effective against one of the state’s top defensive units.

“Coach talks about we’ve got to have everybody’s backs. Kaleb went down, Jalen (Smith) went down, Cap (Whitlock) went down with foul trouble,” Harrison said. “We kind of had a hard time because we wanted to shoot, but coach said to run the clock, and we did a good job most of the time taking care of the ball.”

Young role players like Whitlock and Ashton Smith found themselves in the thick of the battle during the first half.

“We just tried to shorten the game,” coach Alika Smith said. “We got off to a great start defensively, but when Kaleb got his third foul, we had to trust our young guys, and they really came through. It’s a tribute to those kids. They didn’t get the minutes all year, but they played great tonight.”

Harrison was also superb defensively against Punahou’s 6-5 gunner, Kam.

“He knows (Kam’s) tendencies. He was quick to get out on the 3,” Smith said. “We tried to get their guards to finish and take J.B. away.”

Punahou had the top seed, but was in a bracket that included two teams, Kalaheo and Kahuku, that had been ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the Star-Advertiser Top 10 as recently as last week. Farrington’s stunning rise to the OIA title knocked everything for a loop, and Punahou wound up in what some writers termed the “group of death.”

Kalaheo’s air-tight man defense, with their length and quickness, was like nothing Punahou had seen in a long time.

“Kalaheo’s defense had a lot to do with it, but a lot of it is on us,” Punahou coach Darren Matsuda said. “We didn’t do the things that we did all year, the things that got us to this point. Especially in the first quarter and first half.”

Coming off an opening-round bye, Punahou was well-rested. The Buffanblu were also a bit tight, shooting 0-for-4 in the first quarter as Kalaheo raced to a 12-0 lead.

Gilmore scored eight points, including a 3-pointer before the buzzer, as the Mustangs opened a 17-5 lead entering the second quarter.

He hit three foul shots to start the fourth quarter, and Kalaheo had its biggest lead, 20-5. From there, Dayson Watanabe got hot, scoring nine of his 10 first-half points. He drilled a pair of threes and added three more points off steals as Punahou rallied. After Watanabe drove for a layup, Punahou was within 22-18 with 4:40 left in the second quarter.

In addition, Gilmore left the game with his third personal foul during Punahou’s run. With Gilmore on the bench and Kalaheo out of sync, Coach Smith instructed his team to spread the court four-corners style.

Watanabe cooled off and the Mustangs scored in transition. Kupaa Harrison scored four points and fed Alec MacLeod for a corner 3 to open the lead back up to 29-19.

After Jordan Tanuvasa hit a 3, the Buffanblu lost momentum when Micah Ma‘a was whistled for a foul and a technical while guarding Harrison.

Harrison hit three of his four foul shots with 9.3 second left in the first half, and the Mustangs led 32-22 at the break.

“We didn’t have a tech all year,” Matsuda said. “We stepped outside ourselves tonight.”

Kalaheo, which was ranked No. 1 for most of the season before losing to Farrington in the OIA quarterfinals, will face OIA East rival Kahuku in today’s semifinal round. That game tips off at 7 p.m. in Stan Sheriff Center.

“Two good teams. We went to overtime the first time,” Smith said, referring to a home win to start the OIA regular season. “We have to take care of the ball. They’re long and big, but we have to be aggressive.”

At Moanalua
KALAHEO 17 15 10 22 — 64
PUNAHOU 5 17 10 16 — 48
KALAHEO–Kekai Smith 14, Captain Whitlock 1, Kaleb Gilmore 25, Jalen Kuhia Smith 2, Kupaa Harrison 12, Zachary Marrotte 3, Alexander Macleod 5, Andrew Kearney 0, Alexander Layi 0, Ashton Arnold 0, Markus Laquihon 2, Harrison Wallace 0.

PUNAHOU–Jordan Tanuvasa 4, JB Kam 11, Dayson Watanabe 23, Kanawai Noa 0, Akahi Troske 0, Randon Oda 5, Chris Kobayashi 2, Micah Maa 3, Kalaianakupu Santos 0, Hunter Lee 0, Cole Arceneaux 0.

3-point goals–Kalaheo 3 (Gilmore, Macleod, Smith). Punahou 5 (Watanabe 4, Tanuvasa).


  1. Interested Observer February 27, 2015 8:22 am

    I was at the game last night. Coach Alika showed why he may be the best coach in Hawaii. Gilmore was in foul trouble all night. He could never get into a consistent rhythm. He still scored over 20 and the Stangs beat the Puns by 16.

    Punahou looked unprepared and unmotivated. It’s a little tragic given the talent they have. I do not recall all the league champs ever losing game 1. I like the Stangs to win it all over Iolani in the ship.

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