The Kaiser Cougars are searching for a few good men.
The line of defense has been in need of fortification, coach Branden Kawazoe said. They took a big step toward building that wall on Friday with a 70-52 win over Kaimuki at the Cougars’ gym.
“We started the game better than we have before,” Kawazoe said. “We had a good hour-and-a-half film session yesterday and a 30-minute session before the game today. We’re just trying to focus on defensive intensity, help-side defense, getting a good stance and good position. Just basic intensity.”
Jaymin Khansmith led Kaiser (12-6, 2-3 OIA East) with 25 points, including five treys. The senior also grabbed eight rebounds and had just one turnover. As a team, the Cougars shot 45 percent against Kaimuki’s 2-3 matchup zone (24-for-53), including 5-for-14 from 3-point range.
Jaymin, son of former Hawaii wide receiver Larry Khansmith, splashed four treys and was a key part of Kaiser’s fastbreak. Mike Stevens, a 6-4 post, added 14 points, seven boards and three blocks, and sophomore post Cyrus Singelman added 11 points and eight boards.
The Cougars outrebounded the Bulldogs 37-28. Kaimuki hustled for 13 offensive boards; Kaiser finished with 10 on the offensive glass. Kaiser also had 12 turnovers, one less than the Bulldogs.
Kaiser showed a lot of patience against the zone, a big plus against a scrappy Bulldogs squad. What Kawazoe really wants, though, is great intensity on defense from start to finish.
They got that from sophomore guard Dre Falls, who came off the bench and provided tough on-ball defense against Kaimuki’s point guards. Kaimuki’s Fred Taulung finished with 13 points on 4-for-11 shooting. He also had there assists, two steals and three turnovers.
Clein Palik added 13 points and Andre Howze chipped in 11. Kaimuki (4-13, 1-3 OIA East) shot 38 percent from the field (19-for-50) against Kaiser’s man and 1-3-1 defenses, but also hit 7-for-18 from the arc. The Bulldogs were 3-for-4 from deep in the third quarter. One of those triples helped cut a 34-15 halftime deficit to 10 points.
“We did a good job in the first half. We lost the second half,” Kawazoe said.
Kaiser responded after a time out by Kawazoe, getting a steal and layup from Hunter Dias to cap a 7-0 run for a 41-24 lead.
Kaimuki got no closer than 17 the rest of the way.
“We don’t give up and the kids played hard to the end,” Bulldogs coach Greydon Espinda said. “Kaiser’s a good team. They play good offense and defense. We just need to work on getting better one day at a time.”
Kaimuki is in Division II this season, but the competition there is tough with Kalani, Roosevelt and Castle in the East. The Bulldogs host Kailua on Wednesday, then visit Kahuku on Friday.
The Cougars travel to Farrington on Wednesday and will host Kailua on Friday.
“It’s coming down to commitment on defense, getting a better mentality, having the want and the will to defend,” said Kawazoe, who was in the gym on Thursday when Mid-Pacific battled ‘Iolani.
“Both of those coaches (Dean Shimamoto of ‘Iolani and Ryan Hirata of MPI) are my friends. Both teams get after it on defense and that’s the way I want us to play defense,” Kawazoe said. “I told our guys today, the way their shoes squeak on the floor, that’s what I want to hear.”
Kaimuki (1-3) 6 9 20 17 — 52
Kaiser (2-3) 14 20 20 16 — 70
Kaimuki: Braxton Gray 3, Clein Palik 13, Dominic Ono 1, Fred Taulung 13, TJ Lucas 7, Mason Moananu 0, Jacob Taualupe 0, HS Haruo 1, Andre Howze 11, Jonah Faasoa 3.
Kaiser: Nic Garcia 0, Dane Tsue 0, Jaymin Khansmith 25, Luke Stevens 14, Ezekiel Garcia 0, Dre Falls 6, Cyrus Singelman 11, Koa Tom 1, Brandon Yasue 5, Ethan Kuwahara 3, Hunter Dias 5, Isaac Bumanglag 0, Shane Queener 0.
3-point goals: Kaimuki 7 (Taulung 2, Howze 2, Lucas, Gray), Kaiser 5 (Khansmith 5).