More of the same by Kahuku, Maryknoll, Kailua, ‘Iolani in boys hoops opening round

‘Iolani freshman JJ Mandaquit went up and stayed up on this dunk attempt in the first half against Roosevelt. He was called for traveling, but the Raiders prevailed, 59-35, and advanced to the quarterfinals of the Heide & Cook/HHSAA Boys Basketball State Championships. Paul Honda/

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Monday’s opening-round games isn’t that the favorites won.

Maybe it is just that every favorite won by its own choice of methodology. Kahuku pounded the rock inside. Maryknoll won with a deliberate pace. Kailua let Jonny Philbrick eat. ‘Iolani went to the race track. All in all, the first boys state championships in two years went according to the book.

The Heide & Cook/HHSAA State Championships resumes on Thursday with quarterfinal matchups at Moanalua and McKinley gyms. At Moanalua, fourth-seeded Baldwin meets Kailua at 5 p.m., followed by top seed Saint Louis and Kahuku at 7 p.m.

At McKinley, third-seeded Hilo and ‘Iolani square off at 5 p.m., followed by second-seeded Mililani and two-time defending state champion Maryknoll at 7.

>> Raider race track

Roosevelt is no slouch, a balanced team of athletes with a strong 6-3 center, Kamuela Kaaihue, controlling the paint. But the Rough Riders fell behind 9-0 and never got the lead back under double digits in a 59-35 runaway by the home team, ‘Iolani.

Roosevelt coach Steve Hathaway said ‘Iolani was the fastest team he had seen this season. They were quite opportunistic, forcing 30 turnovers by Roosevelt, mostly out of a 1-3-1 halfcourt trap. Roosevelt got a better feel for breaking that pressure in the second half, but it was far too late by then.

The good news for the Raiders on a night when JJ Mandaquit had “only” 11 points and Aaron Claytor had “only” eight: Jack Jones clutched up with 14 points, including a few buckets on smooth passes by Claytor, and 13 points by sophomore Taniela Taliauli.

Mandaquit had one of ‘Iolani’s highlights on a play that registered nothing more than a field-goal attempt. He was called for traveling on a fast break dunk attempt in the first half, nearly lifting off over a Roosevelt defender. Slow-motion video shows Mandaquit took an extra step, or did it?

“I don’t know. I didn’t think so. The refs have a hard job so we’ll give it to them,” the freshman said. “We’ll give it to them.”

A touchdown machine as a receiver during football season, Taliauli had his best shooting game on the hardwood. After a long 11-game football season with multiple bye weeks, he feels normal again as a shooter.

“Shoot, it took a long time. It took too long, but thankfully, I got it back recently and I’ve been trying to help the team as much as I can,” he said.

Of the 30 takeaways by the Raiders, 19 were steals, including five by Bailey Bumanglag.

“We just knew that we had to come out and play as a team, not to take them lightly because it’s win or go home now,” Mandaquit said. “We forced a lot of turnovers, but I still feel that we have some things to clean up and it could’ve been better, but we’re just glad we were able to get stops.”

It wasn’t all smooth sailing, of course. Roosevelt’s hustle and determination made it tough for ‘Iolani to score off every turnover.

“A lot of it comes from the fact that we want these guys to play hard. We want them to play intense. You have to make sure when you do get those turnovers, you’ve got to cash it in,” Hirata said. “Tonight, we struggled a little bit to cash it in early on. Got a little bit more comfortable toward the end. This team thrives on defense and if it continues to play at a high level I think we’ll be all right.”

The Raiders haven’t forgotten how quickly they became a relative afterthought in 2020, finishing 0-13 in IL H play. Claytor was still in middle school then, but the path toward prominence has included doubters.

“Going to the state tournament, we have a chip on our shoulders ourselves,” he said. “We have to prove something every game, but coach pushes us into, ‘Let’s get this dub.’ Turnovers was just a thing. We practice this every day against the best players in the state.”

The play-in win sets up one of the most coincidental of matchups in the quarterfinal round Thursday: ‘Iolani and Hilo. And ‘Iolani has two born-and-bred Hilo hoopsters, Mandaquit and Taliauli.

More on that in a “Coaches Tribune” post coming soon.

>> Big Red smothering defense

In Keaau, Kamehameha-Hawaii stayed close with Kahuku for a quarter, trailing 11-7. Like clockwork, Kahuku’s Amari Westmoreland-Vendiola picked up his own pace. After scoring three points on 1-for-3 shooting with two rebounds, the 6-foot-3 senior had eight points on 3-for-3 from the field with a couple of free throws as the visitors opened a 29-18 lead by the half.

Always a second-half dominator, Westmoreland-Vendiola scored nine more points in the third quarter (4-for-5 from the field) as Kahuku went on a 20-6 run for a 49-24 lead. He did not play the fourth quarter as Kahuku completed a 62-37 early afternoon win and heading home for a late-afternoon flight.

Westmoreland-Vendiola finished with 20 points and six rebounds. With center Denzon Seui-Sika adding 12 points, Kahuku shot 47 percent from the field (26 for 55) and committed just 15 turnovers. KS-Hawaii struggled against Kahuku’s long, tough man-to-man defense and shot 26 percent from the field (13 for 51) and committed 19 turnovers.

More giveaways than field goals made is never a good formula. Especially when one team, the Warriors, shoots 2-for-22 from the arc in its own gym.

>> Big Blue blanket

The hazards of playing Kailua seem preventable. Stop Jonny Philbrick, hope is alive. The 5-9 junior guard is simply irrepressible. He took 16 shots, made eight, scoring 18 points and adding six steals as the Surfriders overtook the Hurricanes in the second quarter for a 53-33 win.

Reece Matsukawa stepped up with 13 points, four assists and two steals, but Philbrick and Matsukawa combined for 12 turnovers — and Kailua still won by 20. How?

Defense. Kapolei got another monster game from Kumique Yandall-Parker (14 points, 15 rebounds, six blocks!), but shot just 25 percent from the field on 10-for-40 shooting. The ‘Canes were also an eye-popping 12-for-28 at the free-throw line. Ten buckets, 18 turnovers, again, not the way the game plan was drawn up.

Yandall-Parker had a team-high five giveaways and shot 10-for-19 at the free-throw line. The fact that Kapolei was in this game for two quarters despite the clearly net-negative numbers in key categories says a lot about its grit. So does forcing Kailua into 18 giveaways of its own.

Kailua’s 6-4 sophomore, Noa Donnelly had a moderate six points, three boards, two blocks and a steal in 18 minutes. Senior Ethan Kunz, who played 30 minutes (as did Philbrick and Matsukawa), had six points, eight caroms, two dimes and two blocks. That’s a standard, quietly crucial stat line for the Surfriders.

Big Blue advances.

>> Another season ends for Kale Spencer

In Pukalani, Maryknoll arrived and withstood the force of the Kamehameha-Maui Warriors, who had knocked off Baldwin last week to force a winner-take-all MIL championship game.

Kale Spencer, the three-sport standout, had 19 points to carry KS-Maui. The Warriors were within 23-21 at the half and 28-25 entering the final quarter.

Alas, Maryknoll coach Kelly Grant’s grinding, possession-milking recipe for success in all games — preseason and regular season alike — prepared the Spartans for a war on the slope of Haleakala. Logan Dias finished with 18 points as Maryknoll advanced with a 44-34 win.

Spencer was a standout offensive lineman and linebacker for the Warriors last fall. Next up: volleyball season.


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