No. 4 Kahuku overcomes McKinley’s box-and-1

Kahuku advanced to the OIA championship game with a 56-40 win over McKinley on Monday night, but it was more than just a solid win for Kahuku.

It was about patience. Dealing with walkers instead of runners. Kahuku (24-3 overall) could have tried more to speed the game up, but opted not to press fullcourt. They do more than enough, really, out of a rugged man-to-man defense. But the Tigers were not quite accommodating.

Plan A worked to near perfection for McKinley in a David-versus-Goliath matchup.

>> Get a lead. The Tigers roared to a quick 7-0 cushion.

>> Use Hsien Pascua, a tough, athletic 5-foot-5 guard, to cover Kahuku’s 6-10 phenom, Tolu Smith, our of McKinley’s box-and-one defense.

After the TV timeout with 3:18 left in the first quarter, the Tigers spread the court four-corners style and Kahuku remained in halfcourt man-to-man. The lead changed hands four times as McKinley was diabolical and deliberate.

Then Ruanui Winitana, who had missed his first four shots, stroked a 3 from the right wing, giving Kahuku a 16-14 lead midway through the second quarter. The Red Raiders couldn’t break out, though, before outscoring the Tigers 8-0 in the final 3 minutes of the third period.

Smith, who struggled early — two points, four rebounds, three turnovers in the first half — turned it on after the break. The light-footed leaper went straight the paint to start the second half, and the Tigers could do little to stop him. Seven points in a row, 19 of his 21 in the second half, along with 11 rebounds. Passing, rebounding, challenging passing lanes and shots. He finished the third with a rebound, coast-to-coast drive and no-look dish to Ethan Erickson for a point-blank layup at the buzzer, and Kahuku could finally breathe a little with a 37-26 lead.

Kahuku withstood another McKinley rally before pulling away in the final minutes. Smith broke away for two scintillating slams on the break, but was less than thrilled about his approach to McKinley’s box defense in the first 16 minutes.

“It was my fault. I had a little kink in my knee and I wasn’t moving enough,” Smith said. “I had a bad first half. I had to stop making dumb plays.”

For all his accolades, including a 31-point, 17-rebound game last week, Smith has a willingness to accept responsibility for his team’s struggles from time to time. Sometimes, he might be too hard. He still hasn’t quite forgiven himself for Kahuku’s 50-48 loss to Punahou at the St. Francis Hoops Classic in December.

Punahou was unbeaten and No. 1 in the state at the time.

“I had 10 turnovers in that game. That one’s on me,” Smith said.

The Red Raiders are operating much more efficiently these days. They keep rising higher in the Star-Advertiser Top 10, but even at No. 4, their potential is clearly much higher. McKinley? Few teams have played smarter and tougher in the past three weeks. Like Kalani and other highly disciplined teams, the Tigers know who they are and completely embrace that. After a slow start, they won six of the last seven regular-season games, then stunned Leilehua in the playoffs to qualify for the state tourney.

“For the most part, most of our losses have been close,” said senior guard Kyle Moraga, who finished with 19 points. “Our first three games, we lost, but we figured out how to win.”


  1. 88 February 6, 2018 6:20 am

    Hawaii needs to implement a shot clock and Kahuku needs to rotate players in more so the starters can rest.

  2. Laie Losers February 6, 2018 7:15 am

    Another great win for a team who relies heavily on recruiting. How often do you see a team two years in a row receive players 6’5 or taller from different parts of the country? Tolu Smith is a great player and will be in the future, but i think the OIA should investigate more into how Kahuku is getting all these players. Family connection? I think not. I also watched the game last night on TV, Kahuku coach should be ASHAMED for having his player take that last shot when McKinley obviously held back their defense in the last second. Great job coach, the kids are a reflection of you..

  3. Whhy February 6, 2018 11:34 am

    Hater-aid anyone?

  4. Hau'ulaBoy February 6, 2018 12:27 pm

    A student athlete has every right to go where he/she believes that they will get the best high school experience. So don’t hate and just cheer for your school or student athlete and be happy for their success. This is not North Korea. A parent should be able to send their child wherever they so choose.

  5. Hau'ulaBoy February 6, 2018 12:35 pm

    And, yes Hawaii needs to implement the shotclock. In Russia they have shotclock even for their youth leagues.

  6. Deuche February 6, 2018 1:11 pm


  7. RR4L THOUGHTS February 6, 2018 4:27 pm

    Kahuku doesn’t have much to offer, other than opportunities. It has sad facilities and a poor rotation of gym-use (due to multiple teams and overlapping sports). There’s no advantage at most public schools, it’s the school spirit and community – based support. No one should dislike schools that have talent…Smith is rooted at Kahuku. Kahuku is the melting pot of the North Shore, surely attracting anyone who wants to play for a very spirited school and community. He’s my nephew! On the other hand, even if a student is not officially rooted to the community, becomes an integral part of this family. We take care of our kids! Oh, and not too many teams rotate players, because they’re all going for the win. It’s ok. I think that’s competition. Rotations are nice, if the one coming in is of equal strength/ value as the one going out. Just my thoughts. This is only in support of kids playing their hearts out! Kahuku is definitely a very special place!

  8. 88 February 6, 2018 6:50 pm

    When I said rotate players in I’m not insinuating that everyone should play. I’m saying give our starters a little rest so that come 4th period they not running on fumes. How long do you think our 6’10 foward can last when the kid gottah defend, bring the ball up and be the go to scorer? At least rest him the last minute of the 3rd period. What you gonna run him till his knees break… C’mon man.

  9. Loca1boiAnonymous February 6, 2018 8:07 pm

    Lol @ investigating Kahuku. People only like investigate when they getting dominated. I sure never hear people calling for investigations over the Lithuanian and Serbian kids playing for schools not named Kahuku last season. Get more local kids on Kahuku than half the other OIA teams anyway. Unlike other schools in the state that do the same damn thing, Kahuku’s coach actually brings in talent.

  10. RR4L implant February 6, 2018 10:50 pm

    88 you must not watch high school sports too often. He’s a baller that’s why he plays all 4 QTRs. If you know Kahuku all they have is ballers. Quit complaining and get your alma mater on Kahuku’s level. Kahuku will always be the talk of the town not for its amazing facilities or 5 star teachers or amazing athletes but for it amazing community support.

  11. PolynesianPitchPerfect February 6, 2018 11:55 pm

    Why not celebrate with us? Why cut us down every time we spread talent? Why pick on a school that is based in a community with family bonds? Embrace us? Follow us, families are forever! Investigate? When you play for Kahuku, you don’t really get perks, you have to fundraise like everybody else, you have to make grade check like everybody else, you have to apply yourself. There are strong geneology family roots and strong community volunteers that attracts people to Kahuku. If you want to be the best, you need to play the best. We are Polynesian Pitch Perfect!

  12. PublicSchool February 7, 2018 9:23 am

    Kahuku fans take it as a compliment that some people pick on you folks (like they do other ILH and OIA teams who do well). No one picks on the unsuccessful teams (that’s no fun). You are an easy target because you are so good. And YES, you do have THE best community support NO DOUBT. No one who is a true high school sports fan can contest that. So keep doing your thing and let the haters hate. Not worth your time. Keep cheering on your teams and supporting your kids. That’s what it’s all about.

  13. 88 February 7, 2018 9:19 pm

    Like I said running on fumes. Kid played the entire game even when we were up 16. If he was given the chance to rest just a little he makes those free throws and has more strength in the low post for those miss shots. Good game Kalaheo

  14. Nalei February 8, 2018 3:52 am

    I’m from the North shore so not a Kahuku hater but Kahuku makes a big thing about how these private schools recruit in football and stuff but yet the do the same exact thing in basketball?? Double standard?

  15. EnoughAlready February 8, 2018 3:49 pm

    Unreal @88. We all know you are just a disgruntled parent trying to live via proxy through your own kid. Leave your kid alone and let him lead his own life. Parents should support the program, not try and take it down year after year. Kahuku has a great coach who is trying to change the culture. Selfish people like you need to hit the road…

  16. 88 February 8, 2018 5:37 pm

    No one is trying to take down a program
    or bad mouth the Coach. The coach is doing a great job taking a bunch of 1st year starters all the way to the OIA title game. I am simply stating the obvious which is our starters would benefit from rest. Stop trying to start somthing that’s not there. Maybe if you took your head out your @$$ and watch the game you would see that too.

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