It’s a lot to expect a team to fly nearly 3,000 miles to any destination, then take on the home team in a feature game when the entire gym (almost) is cheering against you.
That’s what the El Segundo boys basketball team is up against with Punahou, the No. 3-ranked team in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser Top 10. It’s been a heck of a ride so far for the Buffanblu, rolling against teams near and far and losing just twice, both nail-biters.
No print story duties for me tonight, so all I’ve got is video and live blog. I dare you to endure.
Jack-Eli Tufuno was very sound in recent games as a scorer in the low post and he opens the game with a smooth jump hook in the lane for the first bucket.
The visitors handle Punahou’s three-quarter pressure cleanly, but miss and the Buffanblu score in their halfcourt set on a wing 3 by Chris Kobayashi. He was a corner-3 specialist as a freshman, but now as a junior has become much more physical with the ball. He’s gotten stronger, and can take the hit as he drives and draws contact.
This is looking more and more like a typical Punahou game. Steal by Cole Arceneaux, layup. Fastbreak and Jared Lum scores a layup. Time out, El Segundo. PUN leads 9-0.
El Segundo scores, but Punahou pushes upcourt and gets a corner 3 from freshman Kaulana Makaula. Tufono hits one of two FTs. It’s 13-2 already with more than 5 minutes to go in the first quarter.
The Eagles aren’t doing too badly against the press. Punahou’s in halfcourt man when it doesn’t force a turnover, and this is where the visitors might be able to gain some momentum. The Buffanblu are tall in the first and second units, but most of their guys are fast, finesse defenders. Thing is, most teams can’t get into an offensive rhythm out of their halfcourt game because Punahou won’t usually let you.
Eagles sit back in a 2-3 matchup zone, but Zane Chong drains a 3. That’s Punahou’s third trey and the lead is 16-2.
It’s 18-8 after one quarter
The Eagles cut the lead to 10, but Makaula sinks another corner 3, then gets a steal and lobs a fullcourt pass to a streaking Arceneaux for another layup and it’s 25-10 with less than 7 minutes to play in the quarter. Lightning strikes again.
The lead is up to 16 when Jamal Howard hits a nimble shot in the paint, then beats two defenders for a fastbreak reverse layup, cutting the score to 29-17.
It’s like this: Punahou seems unbeatable and sometimes untouchable with its speed. Transition points. Surplus of 3-point shooters. And just enough post scoring to keep defenses honest enough. But it’s also like this: the Buffanblu showed they can be beaten by an equally quick team (Kaiser) that has an active 6-foot-5 playmaker (Chance Kalaugher). They lost that game by just one point, easily could’ve gone either way, but it was Kalaugher with the tip-in at the buzzer.
Then there was a close loss during their road trip. But the rest of the time, they just outrun you. And it’s players one through 10. They stay fresh and keep the clamps on opponents from the back line to the front line.
Then there’s this: ‘Iolani has the ultimate pressbreaker in 6-7 Hugh Hogland, who is strong enough to take on on-ball pressure and deliver passes to veteran players like Robby Mann and Zach Gelacio. The Raiders can run and press, and they can slow the tempo and force defenses to deal with Hogland’s much improved low-post game. (He sometimes looks like he’s mastered the book on Kevin McHale moves.)
How about Kamehameha? They got deep and they can pressure fullcourt, and though they haven’t really been tested by a press as good as Punahou’s, I wonder. Kamehameha has strong ballhandling and good spacing, athletic guards and a jumping-jack post (Kobe Young) who can take the ball at the arc and finish at the rim. That’s going to be a fascinating matchup come ILH season.
Saint Louis loves to press, but are the Crusaders ready to face the frenzy that Punahou will create? I think the Crusaders are real close to being a very good team. They need to be tested often before the regular season, but as far as I know, they’re resting. Can’t go wrong with rest.
The ILH will be brutally tough. Mid-Pacific has already beaten Kaiser and has given a bunch of teams trouble even as starters sit with injuries and other issues. If and when the Owls are healthy they will spoil someone’s season. Can they sneak up and snag a state-tournament berth? Who knows. I think they’re two consistent 3-point shooters away from really ruining things for multiple teams in the ILH.
No, I don’t know if the ILH will ever negotiate a cable deal. If there’s any league in the country that could do it, it might be them. And I’d probably subscribe.
More Eagle turnovers and more points for the Buffanblu. Lead is up to 42-24.
Marc Cooper, a 6-foot forward built like a fullback, hits a set-shot 3-pointer. Did not leave the ground. Haven’t seen something like that in ages. It’s about as old school as a shot can get. That cuts the Punahou lead to 53-35. He ties up a Buffanblu shooter and gets a tiny bit animated when it’s ruled a jump ball. Now he drives baseline and gets clobbered on a layup attempt. Will Marc Cooper turn this game around? He just air balled a free throw. But wouldn’t that be something if he hit five more treys in a row and got the Eagles in range to win the game?
Not gonna happen. He misses the second FT and Punahou scores on a fastbreak layup. The lead is 20 with less than 2 minutes to go. But Marc Cooper cares, and he’s playing every possession like this is a tied game. I am a Marc Cooper fan.
Now he dishes out a hard foul and sends Hunter Lee to the foul line. Marc Cooper has waited all night for a chance to get on the court, and he’s getting everything he can out of every second. He leaves the game with 3 points in 3 minutes. Punahou will advance to the semifinal round. El Segundo has played hard. They’re scrappy. They just air balled a corner 3 at the buzzer. But I like them. I predict they will win at least one more game before the tourney ends on Wednesday night.