This was classic in so many ways, but unfortunately for Leilehua fans, what could have been the biggest Mules win of preseason turned out to be a overtime thriller and defeat.
With their two big men sitting the bench for most of the second half and all of OT, Huipu of Zhejiang, China eked out a 70-66 win over Leilehua on Monday afternoon at the Walter Wong Invitational. It was a gritty, spirited effort by the Mules, who connected on nine 3-pointers.
With Huipu’s big guys — 6-9 Xiao Rong Pei and 6-8 Wang Shao — seemingly out of gas, Leilehua’s bigs worked the inside for the kind of production local teams had not had during this tourney. Leilehua led 5-1, fell behind 19-8, then rallied late in the second quarter to close the game. They took the lead on Liam’s Fitzgerald’s trey, 25-24, and stretched it just a bit to 30-27 at the break.
Huipu cut the lead down and took a 45-42 lead on one of their eight treys, and from there, it was back and forth. Leilehua had a 53-49 lead, but generally gave the game away on a missed breakaway dunk with 3:55 left, and then the Mules tried a difficult, double-pump layup in traffic. Why they wanted to shoot, I don’t know.
That gave Huipu opportunity, and they tied it on a steal for a layup at 53-all, and another steal led to a 55-53 lead with 37 seconds left in regulation. Joseph Gouty drove for a tying layup with 21 seconds left and the game went into OT.
That’s when Sun Geng went off for the Chinese squad, hitting four 3-point bombs in a row to boost his team to victory. A great game, and Leilehua should build even more momentum from it, even in defeat.
Next up: ARISE KIWI NATION. Kahuku meets Punahou, right after Farrington and Kalaheo are pau. No. 2 Kalaheo leads No. 4 Farrington at the half, 25-14. Looking forward to seeing Keanu Akina, Samuta Avea and the three New Zealand transfers.
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Final at Hemmeter Fieldhouse: Kalaheo 54, Farrington 40. The Mustangs had a 20-6 lead in the first half, slicing through Farrington’s man defense with consistency. Farrington switched to a 1-2-2 zone and went on a mini-run to stay in the game. Three-pointers by John Paul Raymundo and Keola Kealoha kept the Governors in reasonable striking distance.
By the third quarter, the Govs had momentum. Ranan Mamiya finally began to attack Kalaheo’s man defense, and Farrington got within 37-30. But Alec MacLeod hit a wide-open corner 3 as the quarter ended, and Farrington never recovered.
The Governors had just nine players in uniform tonight. I know Bryce Tatupu-Leopoldo is off island playing in an all-star football game.
Kupaa Harrison led Kalaheo with 17 points. Kaleb Gilmore added 14, including 7-for-11 at the foul line. Mamiya led Farrington with 10 points.
No. 1 Punahou and unranked Kahuku warming up. So tempting to call Kahuku the Auckland Red Raiders.
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Punahou 22, Kahuku 8, end Q1
Buffanblu walloping the Red Raiders. Lot of fastbreak buckets. Punahou’s halfcourt offense is in sync. J.B. Kam is playing aggressively, going to the basket, and Punahou had little trouble with Kahuku’s 1-3-1 zone.
The Red Raiders’ best player, Samuta Avea, got a handful of touches, and hit two foul shots. That’s it. They are intent on working the big Kiwis into the offense against Punahou’s man defense. Hyrum Harris is a good passer and has been actually quick to the offensive glass. Yes, he has matured in the two years since he played at Maryknoll. But overall, Kahuku will need time to get in sync
Kahuku switched to a 2-3 zone late in the third quarter, which may seem like a concession of sorts, but that opens up gaps for Punahou’s gunners.
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Half: Punahou 37, Kahuku 12
Six 3-pointers by the home team in the first half.
Punahou’s onslaught has continued. The fullcourt press got the Buffanblu some easy steals and points late in the first quarter, and then Kala‘i Santos and Kam nailed treys to open the second. Harris is holding his own for Kahuku on the boards, but overall, Punahou has been resilient on the glass.
Avea got his first shot since the free throws is an NBA 3 from the right wing. Kanawai Noa scored on back-to-back buckets, including a coast-to-coast play off a steal. Punahou’s wing defense is tight and aggressive, probably their strength defensively. I still think Avea could be more aggressive. Not sure if he has the green light. Realistically, Punahou has a ton of talent and returnees, and Darren Matsuda’s team looks like it is in midseason form.
Kahuku will need time to gel. Lot of potential. My guess is Coach Alan Akina really wants his team to get used to this double-post offense — similar to what Farrington uses — as soon as possible. They could probably get points more easily by clearing out for Avea, but at some point, incorporating the bigs will be their money in the bank, so to speak. Harris is a very good passer, as I mentioned, and he ran the pick-and-roll with Avea nicely on one play during the second quarter. (Avea’s pass was too high, but that would’ve been an easy bucket.)
Kahuku hasn’t played many games to this point, and though they could use another couple of weeks to get more used to each other, they don’t have that luxury. The OIA opener is on Saturday when they host Farrington.
There’s a nice crowd from the North Shore here, maybe 75 to 100 fans, which is impressive for a Monday night. If they’re patient, they might see some magic on the hardwood this season, and Kahuku might get as far — or further — than its football team went this year.
Punahou 46, Kahuku 19, end Q3
Coach Akina played his reserves for most of the third quarter. As I figured, he’s looking way down the road. They’ll wallop some lesser teams, but he’s looking at the big picture and putting the rest of this game to good use. Starters are back in the game to start the fourth quarter.
Punahou 56, Kahuku 33, 3:40
Glimpses of greatness. Avea went coast to coast, behind the back, crossover, beating 4 defenders with a long finger-roll scoop. Got a steal, swished a trey. More please.
Alley-oop dunk for Denhym Brooke on the fastbreak, followed by a Punahou turnover and a breakaway dunk by Avea. Kahuku fans finally smiling.
Kahuku’s fullcourt press messing up Punahou’s reserve unit.
Final: Punahou 64, Kahuku 48.
High scorers: PUN—J.B. Kam 14 (four treys), Akahi Troske 10. Nine 3-pointers in all for the Buffanblu.
KAH—Samuta Avea 15, Denhym Brooke 15, Keanu Akina 9. Hyrum Harris finished with six points and, my guess, 10 rebounds.
The Red Raiders were in fairly good spirits despite the loss. Long season ahead. I think their ceiling is as high as any teams. Just a matter of finding their chemistry.
Punahou simply played great tonight. Truly the No. 1 team in the state, though I wouldn’t put Kalaheo too far behind them.