By Paul Honda
Chapter 1 of Kamehameha’s title defense is underway, and not even a former hoops prince could overthrow the king.
Micah Christenson amassed 24 points, including 10 in the pivotal final quarter, as Kamehameha outlasted Punahou 58-55 in the final of the Jim Alegre Invitational Thursday night.
Down three points, Punahou had two chances in the final 15.3 seconds to tie the game. The first possession was snuffed out by a moving-screen call. After Christenson missed two free-throw shots with 6.7 seconds left — his first misses at the line after five makes — the Buffanblu nearly threw away the outlet pass. The ball bounced wildly toward halfcourt, where Matt Feldman’s 44-foot heave missed at the buzzer.
The Warriors spoiled what could’ve been a fairy-tale beginning for Punahou’s new coach, Alika Smith. The two teams are certain to battle with heavier stakes come Interscholastic League of Honolulu season.
“A bump in the road isn’t a bad thing,” the former Kalaheo and University of Hawaii star said. “We lost to a good team. We missed some free throws in the fourth quarter, but we played hard.”
Punahou shot 3-for-8 from the line in the final 8 minutes.
Kamehameha (3-0) is the smaller team in stature, but Christenson’s great vertical leap and brilliant 3-point shooting were huge weapons. The 6-foot-5 junior pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds, including four on the offensive glass, to help the Warriors stave off Punahou’s sophomore twin towers of Malik Johnson (6-6) and Deforest Buckner (6-7).
“Christenson’s the real deal. We lost him a few times on his 3s,” Smith added.
A little extra shooting before the game helped, Christenson said.
“The past two games, we struggled with role playing and our shooting wasn’t the best. I asked coach if we could just get some shots in,” he said.
So, the Warriors spent some time on their shooting at Kekuhaupio Gym before taking the ride to Radford High School.
“It turned into an official shootaround. That was good cooperation by the team,” Christenson said.
Johnson led Punahou (2-1) with 20 points and 11 boards, including eight caroms on the offensive glass. Buckner had 10 points, eight rebounds and two blocks. Feldman and Taylor Crabb chipped in with eight points apiece.
Kamehameha’s tight man-to-man pressure was another factor.
“We still do what we do best: pressing,” coach Jesse Nakanishi said.
Neither team was particularly rusty despite the early stage of the season. Kamehameha, in fact, had just five turnovers in the second half despite playing its entire lineup. The Warriors have been at work just for a week, and a few players, like returning point guard Chaz Bajet, had little to no practice time because of the football season.
Bajet, a cornerback, helped the football team win the state title last Friday and is busy this week with Aloha Prep Bowl football practices. His decision-making and crisp ballhandling allowed Nakanishi to keep the senior on the floor down the stretch without a hitch in the offensive flow.
Punahou, which won the state title in 2008, looked sharp in the first quarter. The Buffanblu had no turnovers and used a fullcourt press to rattle the Warriors some. Johnson’s drive to the bucket gave Punahou its biggest lead, 15-7, late in the first.
That lead stuck until late in the half, when a 7-0 run — including Christenson’s pull-up jumper and reverse layup for a 3-point play – tied the game at 29-all going into the break.
The Warriors opened the second half with another 7-0 run, including a pull-up trey by Christenson. The teams then exchanged the lead four more times before Shane Matayoshi drilled a 3-ball from the top off an offensive board and assist from Bajet. Matayoshi, fouled on the play, hit a foul shot for a 4-point play, and Kamehameha led 47-45 with 5:19 left.
Twice, Punahou got within one point, including Buckner’s putback and free throw to bring the Buffanblu to 56-55 with 1:18 remaining.
Before the free throw, a Kamehameha player spiked the basketball in the corner, but officials didn’t see what could’ve been a technical foul.
The Buffanblu got the ball back down just one, but Matt Feldman’s 12-foot runner missed with 20 seconds remaining.
A miss on the front of a 1-and-1 by Davis Achong gave Punahou another chance, but Kamehameha’s Devin Kuhns came up with the offensive rebound. Christenson then sank two foul shots with 15 seconds left for a 58-55 cushion.
Net notes: Kamehameha shot 20-for-53 from the field (38 percent), including 7-for-19 from the arc (37 percent). … Christenson was 3-for-7 from deep. … Punahou shot 23-for-56 (41 percent), but struggled from the arc (2-for-11) and the line (7-for-16). … Kamehameha shot 11-for-15 from the charity stripe. … The Warriors had a slight edge on the boards (34-30), though the teams were almost even with offensive rebounds: 14 by Punahou and 13 by Kamehameha. … More stats: Kamehameha had nine assists, eight steals, two blocks and 16 turnovers. … Punahou: nine assists, nine steals, three blocks and 14 turnovers. … Perhaps more telling — in the second half, Kamehameha had five assists on its nine field goals and three steals to go with five turnovers. Punahou? One assist on 11 buckets, no steals and eight turnovers after intermission.
At James Alegre Gym, Radford
Punahou 20 9 13 13 — 55
Kamehameha 14 15 11 18 — 58
Punahou: Taylor Crabb 8, Patrick O’Neil 0, Bryan Matsukawa 3, Matt Feldman 8, James Dowsett 4, J.K. Duncan 0, Malik Johnson 20, K.T. Tuumalo 0, Deforest Buckner 10.
Kamehameha: Chris Bright 0, Shane Matayoshi 4, Frank Ho 0, Micah Christenson 24, Dyrbe Enos 4, Devin Kuhns 0, Davis Achong 2, Chaz Bajet 2, Beau Oshiro 3, Charlton Tang 5, Brandon Orpillia 6, Shane Yoshida 4, Kawika Stant 2, Taylor Taliuli 0, Brent Auyong 2.
3-point goals: Punahou 2 (Crabb, Dowsett), Kamehameha 7 (Christenson 3, Orpillia 2, Matayoshi, Oshiro).