Kamehameha rallies past Moanalua 65-54

Kamehameha's Frank Ho, right, poked the ball away from Moanalua's Aaron Davis. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Honolulu Star-Advertiser).


(Limited space in today’s print edition, so here’s the full version of the game story.)

Micah Christenson isn’t happy at all, but after a 22-point, 15-rebound effort on an off night, the Kamehameha Warriors won’t fret.

Christenson missed his first five shots and didn’t grab a rebound in the first quarter, but warmed up and led Kamehameha to a 65-54 comeback win over Moanalua last night before a spirited crowd of about 400 at Kekuhaupi‘o Gym.

Dyrbe Enos tallied 16 points for the Warriors, hitting all six of his free-throw tries. Kamehameha, the runner-up in last year’s Division I state tournament, took 33 foul shots and made 24, a respectable 73 percent clip. They trailed by 11 in the first half before rallying.

“It’s the first game. I’m kind of surprised we were wide-eyed a little bit,” Kamehameha coach Jesse Nakanishi said. “We have a bunch of core guys, but hey, it happens.”

Returnees Wesley Armbrust and Dexter Williams (five boards, three blocks) led the visitors with 11 points apiece. Carl Ko added eight points and five caroms.

It was as entertaining and intense as first games go in nonconference action. Both teams began practicing roughly one week ago. Christenson shot 6-for-23 from the field, but sank 10 of his 12 foul shots.

“I had a rough night shooting, but the deflections and hustle plays made a difference for us,” the 6-foot-5 senior said. “We’ve got to get a little more in shape. Moanalua’s very scrappy, very smart. I think 90 percent of their shots were layups.”

Moanalua opened with plenty of fire and uptempo play, using a quick man-to-man defense to stifle the Warriors. After a 3-pointer by Armbrust, Moanalua led 25-14 in the second quarter.

Christenson scored 10 second-quarter points, including a outback to give his team a 30-29 lead. The Warriors led at halftime, 37-30.

Moanalua, which platooned five for five throughout the game, committed nine of its 24 turnovers in the second quarter against Kamehameha’s sideline traps. When they got through traffic, Na Menehune were explosive. Armbrust’s breakaway dunk cut the lead to one point, and a layup by Dominique Jones tied it at 42 midway through the third quarter.

Kamehameha, which used plenty of 2-3 zone in the first half, went back to its traps to start the fourth quarter. A 9-4 run — a follow shot by Carlton Tang, driving layup by Davis Achong, fastbreak layup by Brandon Orpillia and a 3-point bomb by Enos — opened the lead to 58-48 with 2:34 remaining.

Four free throws by Enos opened the lead to 12 and Moanalua got no closer than 10 the rest of the way.

“We made a lot of mistakes, but I’m happy with the pace,” Moanalua coach Greg Tacon said. “At times we made bad decisions and Kamehameha had a lot to do with that, but we were explosive and trying to go to the rim. What you see from Kamehameha, you won’t see from other teams. They’ll extend their traps.”

Tacon is especially optimistic about Armbrust, a combo guard who is as effective distributing the ball as he is attacking the bucket.

“Wes was in the rotation (last season), but he didn’t get major minutes. This is an opportunity for him to get confidence,” Tacon said.

Moanalua shot 50 percent from the field (23-for-46), but was hindered by turnovers. Kamehameha was only 35 percent from the field, but had a big edge at the foul line and committed nine fewer turnovers (15) than Na Menehune.

Kamehameha finished with a slight advantage on the boards (26-24).

The Warriors were 3-for-20 from 3-point range, but came up with 15 steals.

Tacon plans to continue platooning and keeping his lineup fresh.

“I’ll play my 10 and mix it when we have to. I have nine seniors who have played with me for three years. We can’t outshoot (Kamehameha), but we can meet them in the hustle part,” he said.

Kamehameha’s mix of defenses — so early in the season — is a gift for Nakanishi. He’s looking for effective combinations, but it still comes back to defense.

“Nothing’s predetermined. The hustle’s there. We’ve been working for a week, just like they were, but they’re giving me effort every day,” he said. “It’s an exciting thing. Preseason, we’re still establishing roles on our team. That’s the main thing for me as a coach, finding your substitution patterns and they’re telling me what they can give me through their performance. Who’s going to be filling in and giving breathers, their roles in our defensive scheme.”

Moanalua will play Punahou on Tuesday.

All in all, both coaches were low-key, but excited about what they saw.

“Moanalua is scrappy, they run the court well, push the ball well. They had double-digit layups on us. They’ll be a state tournament team,” Nakanishi predicted.

Some teams that don’t have depth in the front court resist the opportunity to trap defensively. Kamehameha showed a willingness to challenge at midcourt and in the backcourt.

“That’s why we do ball-pressure drills daily. We’ve got to play bigger than we are. We’re a small team for sure,” said Nakanishi, who guided the Warriors to the state title two seasons ago. “If we sit back, we get the ball pounded in on us versus attacking guards, if we get some traps, get some deflections. It’s tough trying to trap with small players, though.”

Kamehameha has the Jim Alegre Classic in the coming week, the annual tourney at Radford High School.

“It’s a pretty high-risk defense we play (to) set the tone, set the tempo. I expect us to be scrappy and get after it,” Nakanishi said.

At Kekuhaupi‘o Gym

Moanalua 16 14 14 10 — 54

Kamehameha 12 25 10 18 — 65

Moanalua: Bronson Kepa 2, Aaron Davis 0, Keven Amaral 4, Dexter Williams 12, Wesley Armbrust 12, Brandon Guerreo 2, Kreig Kepa 0, Alex Hutson 0, Jayar Edwin 0, Dominique Jones 4, Carl Ko 8, Dillon Turk 6, Clinton Winham 0, Shane Ratledge 0, Richard Villasenor 4.

Kamehameha: Dyrbe Enos 16, Frank Ho 3, Micah Christenson 22, Brandon Orpillia 3, Davis Achong 8, Makoa Camanse-Stevens 1, Trent Park 0, J.T. Campbell 4, Charlton Tang 8, Gavin Lagrange 0, Shane Yoshida 0.

3-point goals: Moanalua 1 (Armbrust), Kamehameha 3 (Enos 2, Ho).


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