The Guangming Dragons have come bearing gifts for the Leilehua Mules, and vice-versa. The Dragons brought coach Russ Fitzgerald a red box and the Mules have gift-wrapped goodies. Looks like Hawaiian Host chocolate candies. Just a guess.
This is the last game of the ‘Iolani Classic for both teams. Leilehua lost to Mount St. Joseph (Md.) 72-42, lost to Farrington 46-43, beat No. 10 Kahuku 45-42 and now meet the Dragons in this 10:30 a.m. game. They are playing with more energy than most teams do in morning games. The Mules are playing without Nicholas Duran, who is in street clothes.
Guangming (China) lost to La Lumiere (Ind.) 74-33, lost to Kaiser 55-52 and edged Kaimuki 50-46.
Two minutes in and there have been more turnovers than points.
7-0 run before the Dragons call time out. Joseph Gouty scores off a steal and it’s 11-0. Mules’ halfcourt press is giving Guangming trouble.
The Dragons score on a fastbreak. Hongzheng Ma scores on a lefty layup with 1:56 left in the quarter, his team’s first points of the game. 11-2.
The quarter ends with Leilehua ahead 13-4.
The Dragons set up their 2-2-1 halfcourt press, but I hesitate to cal it a press because they operate it without any pressure on the ball (like I’ve seen some teams do). Maybe they want to disrupt more than gamble. But the Mules shred it for two layups and it’s 17-6. Leilehua still in a 1-3-1 halfcourt set, trapping near midcourt. They’re willing (or maybe not) to give up the corner 3, but the Dragons are not hitting shots. Morning game. Long trip. Probably lots of sightseeing. The Dragons have played with a lot of heart, and they’ll need to dig deep to rally in this one.
Gouty with a diving, sliding save on a loose ball heading out of bounds. That’s energy. Mules lead 17-7.
Ma launches an NBA 3 and hits. The lead is down to 17-12, 2:47.
LEI time out. Turnover. Christian Alvarez’s pass is nearly stolen, then he loses the ball against tight pressure on the sideline. But Jostin Gampayon comes up with a clean pick for a layup. Mules lead 19-12. Time out, Guangdong, 1:00. Coach Liang Zhang doesn’t do much yelling at all, but his volume is up (to medium) during this time out. He’s a veteran who picks his spots well.
Ma sinks another rainbow 3, this one from the corner. He’s a lefty and tough to stop with that quick first step. Kind of a smaller, thinner version of Manu Ginobili.
Mules are laying out for their team. Koa Kauhi dives for a loose ball in traffic and tips it to Gouty, who feeds another Mule for a layup. It’s a 9-0 run to start the second half, Mules up 30-16. Time out, Dragons. Gouty had five points, two dimes and a steal already in this quarter.
Linus Asher with an offensive rebound and putback at the buzzer. Mules lead 34-18 after three quarters.
Kauhi with a hustle tip-in on a missed shot by Gouty. Always enjoy watching Kauhi play. He is a post player and doesn’t deviate from that. I think he embraces his height, his wingspan, his role. He’s got a frame that reminds me of former Kailua great George Puou, who played at San Jose State. A.J. Gainwell has also played well. It won’t show on a stat sheet, but he tips and deflects anything close and is a bear on the boards. He hasn’t hit a 3 yet today and probably hasn’t taken more than three shots. But he’s Leilehua’s version of Draymond Green. He has high hoops IQ, understands spacing and is a team guy. But if they ever need him to attack more and score 15 or 20 points, he could do it.
Charles Watson, better known as Hoku to teammates, getting some run in the second half. He is one of the state’s top football players, a safety with cover ability. Real good coverage. On the basketball court, he’s a 6-2 forward who battles 6-6 foes on the low post. He’s just a junior.
Time out, Dragons, 3:42. The Dragons are trying, but not surprisingly, they look fatigued.
Gouty at the line, hits both shots and departs with 2:42 left. Gainwell leaves, too. And Kauhi. And they don’t really look that tired. It’s 45-23.
Gainwell back in for a few seconds. Watson returns and replaces Gainwell, who was a stud linebacker for Leilehua’s football team the past few years.