It’s not exactly irony, but Micah Dunhour is probably the most fortunate basketball player in the state this week.
The slashing 6-foot-3 junior was a reserve forward at Honokaa last year, impatiently sitting behind more seasoned teammates. In the summer, he joined up with Hawaii Select, based on Oahu, and his game blossomed in mainland summer tournaments.
Dunhour then transferred to Academy of the Pacific, a small private school in Honolulu. The Dolphins showed plenty of potential in preseason and Dunhour was a big reason, able to attack the man-to-man defenses with his ballhandling skills.
Last night, AOP got past Hawaii Baptist 66-49 to qualify for the final Division II state-tournament berth out of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu. That win came just a few hours after Dunhour’s former teammates at Honokaa hosted Kamehameha in another play-in game.
Kamehameha won that battle 75-60 at crusty, dusty Lester Bryan Armory, which is on the campus of Honokaa High School.
The Dragons got a good-sized crowd — 70 percent filled, coach Cheyenne Meyer said — despite a 4 p.m. tip-off. They scored 25 points in the second quarter to take a 37-33 halftime lead. The Dragons played the kind of game that Meyer, a former Honokaa sharpshooter, is familiar with: a drive-and-kick-out game with no hesitation to shoot the open 3.
Micah Christenson scored 22 points, including a pair of treys, to lead Kamehameha (21-6) and Dyrbe Enos added 18 points. Forward Charlton Tang added 16.
Enos, Shane Matayoshi and Branden Orpillia got open for 3-pointers to spark Kamehameha’s third-quarter comeback. The Warriors outscored Honokaa 26-12 and took a 59-49 lead into the fourth.
“We came out of halftime and couldn’t carry any of that momentum over. We didn’t have that same pep,” Meyer said. “Our transition defense, we didn’t locate the shooters.”
Honokaa scored just 11 points in the final quarter against Kamehameha’s man and zone defenses.
“We battled these guys, but we ran out of gas. They have a little more depth,” Meyer added. “We have some young guys who weren’t effective, so I basically went with a six-man rotation.”
Meyer’s return after a hiatus — he left Honokaa to assist former Dragons girls basketball coach Daphne Honma at UH-Hilo for a few years — is temporary, he said. His impact is undeniable. Honokaa didn’t have the funds to travel for preseason tournaments; the Dragons usually play in the Jim Alegre Invitational at Radford. Alegre was a Honokaa graduate who went on to become a coaching legend for the Rams.
Still, Honokaa improved steadily during the regular season and went further than teams like Kealakehe and Keaau, both of whom made quite a splash in nonconference and Big Island Interscholastic Federation play.
Not knowing Kamehameha’s game hurt, Meyer said.
“They do a dribble-penetration and kick. That hurt us. We were clueless. When we’d rotate, they’d dump it down inside,” he said.
It was the closest margin of defeat for a BIIF against an Interscholastic League of Honolulu team in an HHSAA play-in game, at least in recent memory.
“We were playing our best basketball at the right time,” Meyer said of Honokaa’s improvement. “Kamehameha’s a good team. They’ll get at least into the (state) semifinals, but playing five games in six nights is going to be tough.”
That’s something Dunhour will find out about. The D-II state tourney, with just eight teams, doesn’t start until Thursday, but he’ll get his first opportunity on the big stage. AOP will meet Seabury Hall on Thursday at Kalani High School.
Had Dunhour stayed at Honokaa, the Dragons probably would’ve been a better team. He would’ve been their tallest player and one of their better scorers. Would he have been a center? A swingman? A guard? It’s tough to say, but Honokaa’s loss was clearly AOP’s gain.
Paul Honda, Star-Bulletin