Some additional notes and thoughts on last night’s battle at Kekuhaupi‘o Gym, a 67-63 win by No. 3 ‘Iolani over No. 1 Kamehameha.
• ‘Iolani led big early and fought off a few Kamehameha runs. The visitors used straight halfcourt man-to-man defense from the opening tip and zoomed to a quick 14-5 lead. Kamehameha chipped away and took its first lead, 21-20, on a Christenson pull-up jumper midway through the second quarter.
• ‘Iolani closed out the first half with an 9-0 run for a 29-21 lead at the break. Kainoa Scheer, playing with a partially torn meniscus, scored six points inside to boost the Raiders.
• Kamehameha got within 29-28 with four free throws by Tang, but ‘Iolani answered with a 6-0 mini-run.
• The Warriors pulled within 44-42 on a baseline jumper by Orpillia, but Chu scored the next five points on drives to the bucket.
• The Warriors pulled within 49-47 on a three-point play by Frank Ho with 5:48 left, but never got closer. Micah Christenson’s snuff of a Kainoa Chu jumper and fullcourt pass to Branden Orpillia kept their team within a basket, but Chu answered with a breakaway layup for a three-point play.
• After Andrew Skalman hit four foul shots in a row — ‘Iolani was 15-for-18 in the final quarter from the line — the Raiders had their biggest lead at 60-50 with 1:37 remaining. Kamehameha got no closer than the final margin.
• Trevyn Tulonghari had one of the best performances of any reserve player in recent memory. The 5-foot-11 junior scored 13 points, but more importantly, he contested Christenson everywhere on the floor. Christenson had big numbers (22 points, 12 boards, five blocks), but was constantly blanketed by Tulonghari. After rallying his team with 10 points in the third quarter, the 6-5 junior took just three shots in the final quarter, missing them all, and managed three points, all from the line.
• ‘Iolani coach Dean Shimamoto’s decision to put a physical emphasis on slowing down Kamehameha’s best scorer was just one of many moves made by an ILH coach this season. As always, the hyper-competitive nature of the league creates an evolve-or-fossilize reality. Get better or get left behind. The Raiders chose the former and are now in a second-place tie with the Warriors behind Punahou.
• More defense: Does this make Tulonghari a defensive stopper now?
“Honestly, you gotta think like that — I can shut down any guy I guard,” Tulonghari said of his persistence. Though he gave up six inches in height to Christenson, Tulonghari used his upper-body strength and quick feet to deny Christenson the ball many times in the fourth quarter, even beyond the 3-point arc.
“They game-planned real well for us to take me physically out of the game,” Christenson said.
• Reserve power. With Tulonghari, Reid Saito, Ammon Baldomero, Gabriel Vega (6-5) and Josiah Sukumaran (6-3) off the bench, ‘Iolani gradually wore down the Warriors with its platoon system each quarter.
“We’ve wanted to platoon since the beginning of the season, but we had injuries and football,” Shimamoto said, referring to the football team’s long run to the Division II state title. “But now the guys are ready. That made the difference.”
Shimamoto also noted that Christenson never came out of the game, while the Raiders had fresh defenders on him.
“It was a great effort,” Shimamoto said, acknowledging that his team is playing with more grit.
“We have our backs to the wall. We’ve wanted our guys to play with more emotion out there and they did it.”
• ‘Iolani stayed in man-to-man defense from start to finish, eschewing its normal mix of man and zone traps. If Kamehameha and ‘Iolani meet again, whether it’s in a league playoff or the state tournament, the Warriors will likely have some different looks to get Christenson more touches, more opportunities in his comfort zones.
The one thing the two-sport standout hasn’t shown in his two years at the varsity level is a post game. As one of the best free-throw shooters in the state, it would be hard to resist putting Christenson down low against a defender six inches shorter. Would the Warriors do it?
• Kamehameha’s long-range attack was so-so at 36 percent (4-for-11) from the arc. Dyrbe Enos (nine points) had one basket on a drive, but otherwise the Warriors lacked a slasher to take advantage of ‘Iolani’s man defense.
Coming off a 19-point effort in last week’s win at Punahou, Kamehameha forward Charlton Tang scored 17 points last night. However, after scoring five points on free throws in the third quarter, he was quiet until the final stretch. Tang’s game is about putbacks and outhustling teams upcourt for fastbreak buckets.
Between Christenson (go-to scorer, spot-up shooter, defensive rebounding machine), Tang (hustle points) and Enos (occasional slasher, 3-point threat), Kamehameha has a nice mix. Finding a consistent mid-range weapon would be a bonus. Until then, coach Jesse Nakanishi has long-range gunners like Shane Matayoshi, Branden Orpillia and Frank Cho at his disposal.
• Skalman, the savvy senior guard, hit all six of his free-throw tries in the final quarter and finished with 13 points and two steals. He didn’t commit a single turnover and had three key second-half assists, including one to a streaking Chu, who scored on a tough, explosive three-point play at the rim.
• All 18 of ‘Iolani’s foul shots came in the fourth quarter. The Raiders made 15 of them, an 83-percent clip. Kamehameha was 14-for-19, a respectable 74 percent.
• Both teams had solid assist-to-turnover ratios. ‘Iolani had 13 dimes and just eight giveaways. Kamehameha had 13 assists and 11 turnovers.
At any level of hoops, especially high school ball, a 2:1 ratio for a team is usually a great indicator of a victory.
By Paul Honda