OIA final: What have we learned?

Campbell? James Campbell High School popped off the map and into the TV airwaves this week, leading one Pupule to wonder: Is the OIA West really this good?

In all, we learned plenty. (See my game story in this morning’s Star-Advertiser.)

The Sabers entered this game on a scorching hot run, winning 11 of 12 games. But that was all about the weaker West, right? So explain this: After a 41-40 playoff win over Leilehua, how did they knock out Kalaheo?

My take: the Sabers simply wore the Mustangs down. Coach Wyatt Tau uses at least nine players on most nights. Kalaheo doesn’t go very deep for very long.

Also, the Sabers are blessed with seniors at key positions, like Isaac Hurd (200 pounds rock solid) and Gilbert Dayanan, a relentless slasher. There’s skill, like Kalaheo has with 3-point shooting and passing. Then there’s sheer strength, which Campbell has on the perimeter and going to the basket. The difference between 17- and 18-year-olds who can explode and take a hit — and give one, too — en route to the rim and 15- and 16-year-olds who still maturing, well, it’s vast.

And yet, Kalaheo almost won that semifinal game.

In the final, Campbell’s strengths and weaknesses were on display.

• Ike goes cold. Hurd, their strongest player with the ball, has become a solid 3-point threat and has a nice baseline J to his right. But the talented 6-foot senior — he is also one of the top quarterbacks in the state — hasn’t developed a consistent mid-range game when the paint is clogged. Farrington’s size, length and quickness made it tough for almost all the Sabers to get a clean look.

The result is that Hurd managed to take just four shots in the first half for five points. He contributed six boards and was active defensively, but five points for a key scorer in a high-pace game is not promising. Still, the Sabers led 29-26 over the Govs at the half.

After the break, the Govs limited him to just three shots inside the arc, and he was contested on almost all of his five 3-point tries. He couldn’t get one to drop, which says more about Farrington’s team defense than Hurd’s skill.

Farrington battled hard inside. Campbell doesn’t have a go-to scorer in the paint. That put all the pressure on Hurd and Dayanan. Speaking of which…

• Stellar, swift and cornered. Dayanan came off a semifinal where his tip-in at the buzzer beat Kalaheo. He was just as quick and aggressive against Farrington, finishing with 19 points. The 5-10 senior was solid in the first half with 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting, keeping the Sabers in the game.

But Farrington locked down on him in the second half. Fatigue had to be a factor, too. He shot 2-for-6 from the field and 4-for-8 from the foul line after intermission. The defensive pressure at midcourt by the Govs was extreme and the Sabers couldn’t run their sets.

That’s more about backcourt strength and depth than just Dayanan or Hurd. But they never got back into a rhythm during the fourth quarter, and careless turnovers fueled Farrington’s 22-10 run.

• Postman delivers. Lamart Dudley, Campbell’s 6-foot post man, finished with 10 points, all in the second and third quarter. He’s sneaky effective, a wiry, energetic junior with long arms. But the turnover issues in the backcourt meant Dudley and the Sabers had fewer opportunities to score in the post.

• Give it away. Eleven turnovers by Campbell in the second half hurt. After such a successful run through the OIA West, this was probably the first time the Sabers struggled to take care of the ball. Bringing Dudley to midcourt or the high post to help relieve Farrington’s defensive pressure might have helped.

It wouldn’t have guaranteed a win, but with Hurd, Dayanan and Jomar Jett Gapusan doing much of the ballhandling work, a break now and then by using a big man in the middle of the court is nice.

Jacob McEnroe with one of his three dunks against Campbell. (Bruce Asato / Star-Advertiser)
Jacob McEnroe with one of his three dunks against Campbell. (Bruce Asato / Star-Advertiser)

• 11 for 11. For Jacob McEnroe to score just 11 points and grab six boards while still being a force shows why Farrington is not just a run-and-gun team reliant on guard play. McEnroe dunked the ball three times, all during key runs, and the emotional boost cannot be denied. He settled for contested 3-point shots early in the game, but once he made up his mind to anchor the paint, Campbell had to take notice.

The Sabers’ 1-2-2 zone was a great tactic to slow the Govs’ offense down. But McEnroe remained patient, Farrington’s guards played smarter in the second half and there wasn’t much Campbell could do about it.

McEnroe finished with two blocks, but altered a bunch of Campbell attempts. With Mason Semisi and Manly Williams, Alan Silva has the luxury of going with a big lineup at any time.

• Big 12. Mark Dudalao entered the game in the third quarter and provided patience and stability. The Govs needed those traits to deal with that 1-2-2 zone, and Dudalao was willing to move the ball, find creases and kick it rather than jack up quick shots. He found Isaiah Smith three times for 3-point bombs that broke the game open in the third quarter. Having depth in the backcourt can be a blessing or curse. For Govs coach Alan Silva, having depth PLUS variety among his guards is a highly-valued strength.

• Silent assassin. For several minutes at the start, the pace was accelerated and entertaining, and that’s the kind of game Govs guard Isaiah Visoria thrives in. He had 11 points in that opening quarter. Man, it was tough for me to keep stats, the running score and shoot video with both teams going at whirlwind speed. More like trying to track a tornado.

Visoria scored a quiet 23 points, but without his early outburst, it would’ve been tough for the Govs to keep up with the Sabers.

• Big boys. The difference is so clear. When Farrington is missing its big boys — 6-foot-3 Manly “Pumba” Williams and 6-5 Mason Semisi — it’s a track meet. And the Govs have fallen when the interior lacks those bigs. A loss to Baldwin, a loss to Kamehameha and a loss to Kalaheo in OIA play — at least one or both were missing due to football obligations in Samoa or on the mainland. In other words, the Govs are still good when they have to run with a four-guard unit. But when they have Semisi and Williams, they have lost just one game, and that was back on Dec. 7 (Punahou).

That’s why they beat Maryknoll (Dec. 13), the current No. 1 team in the Star-Advertiser Top 10. They’ve got balance plus composure, which isn’t true for a whole lot of this year’s contenders.

Semisi doesn’t do a wide variety of things, but he is an adequate post scorer who is left-handed, and he is a widebody who takes up vast amounts of space near the basket. Williams is active, quick, springy — a perfect energy guy who happens to be 6-3. He’s the Govs’ version of Dennis Rodman, without the sideshow, plus a fine GPA.

• Maturity. If there’s anything else we’ve learned, it’s that the Sabers and Governors have plenty of senior leadership and maturity. There was a LOT of physical play, momentum shifting and intensity. But nobody lost his head. Just a lot of seasoned, tough-minded unity on both sides. Skill and talent are key, but these two squads have gotten this far because they understand how to win.

Doesn’t mean they automatically do win, but when a coach doesn’t have to worry about blowups and immature words, then he can just focus on managing a game. Of course, Silva and Tau are masters of motivation, and they rarely have to raise their voices to do it.

Much more to learn next week. The state tournament tips off on Wednesday and there is not really a dominant, clear-cut favorite. This is gonna be good.


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