By Paul Honda
More on last night’s battle between Kamehameha and Punahou at Hemmeter Fieldhouse, a 60-49 win for the Warriors.
As Punahou coach Alika Smith said, holding Kamehameha’s Micah Christenson to no points in the first half should’ve been a great omen. Instead, the 6-foot-5 junior was a huge asset in so many ways from breaking the Punahou press to swatting away shots to nullifying what had been a dominant Buffanblu rebounding campaign.
“It’s more fun getting everybody else opportunities. I trust my teammates and they really came through,” Christenson said.
Extra work at practice helped. The Warriors utilized “old coaches,” said Charlton Tang, who scored 19 points off the bench. Among the old coaches was Cavan Scanlan.
“We worked on muscling up inside, hitting layups. We worked on defense and rebounding,” Tang said.
• After ravaging Kamehameha for 13 points and 23 rebounds in their previous Interscholastic League of Honolulu battle, Punahou’s DeForest Buckner had 12 points and nine boards as Kamehameha sent a guard to double-team Buckner on every box-out.
“Our main goal was getting them off the boards,” Christenson said, noting the extra hustle of guards Dyrbe Enos and Shane Matayoshi.
• Aggression under control was a mantra for the visiting Warriors.
“We talked a lot about attacking, attacking, attacking,” coach Jesse Nakanishi said. “Our guys had the courage to take it to them in a hostile environment. There was one stretch when we rushed, but we called a time out and fixed it.”
The result? Sixty-percent shooting (21-for-35) and 18 free-throw attempts (13 made).
Punahou was only 4-for-7 at the line.
• Malik Johnson, who had 21 points when the teams met early in preseason (the final of the James Alegre Invitational), added nine points and four caroms.
• As a team, the Buffanblu shot 33 percent (21-for-62), including 3-for-17 from the arc, against Kamehameha’s mix of man and zone defenses.
• A near full house at Hemmeter wasn’t enough to boost the Buffanblu, who fell to 6-1 in ILH play and a first-place tie with Kamehameha.
The Warriors took an early lead and never trailed, opening the margin to six points after Tang scored on a layup, and then on a spin move on a baseline drive late in the first half.
Enos hit his third 3-pointer to start the second half, giving Kamehameha a 34-25 lead.
• Tang has done this before — energizing his team off the bench — but not with this kind of mass production: 9-for-10 shooting.
Punahou was within 49-44 after Matt Feldman hit a 17-foot baseline jumper with 3:17 to go in the fourth quarter, but Tang went to work. His roll of nine consecutive points, including a baseline jumper and a three-point play on a fastbreak, gave the Warriors a 56-46 lead with 44 seconds left.
Punahou, which failed to score from point-blank range on three shots before Tang’s breakaway layup, got a long 3 from Taylor Crabb with 33 seconds to go, but got no closer.
• Smith was his usual even-keeled self after the game.
“We played hard, not smart, and you gotta give them credit,” Smith said. “They were shorthanded. (Chaz) Bajet didn’t play.”
Bajet, a senior point guard, has battled a knee injury that carried over from football season. He recently had surgery, according to coach Jesse Nakanishi, so that he’ll be healthy in time for his first college football season.
For now, the Warriors don’t miss him. They handled Punahou’s fullcourt pressure effectively; in crunch time, Kamehameha ballhandlers like Christenson were stellar in transition, finding Tang for some easy baskets.
• So far, the battle between the state’s top two teams have panned out like this:
Matchup 1, Dec. 10: Christenson shoots lights-out in Kamehameha’s 58-55 win in the final of the Alegre Invitational.
Matchup 2, Jan. 7: Punahou runs the floor, dominates the boards and locks down defensively in a 48-45 win on Kamehameha’s court. Buckner’s 23-rebound effort is Herculean, to say the least.
Matchup 3, Jan. 29: Christenson, recently back from another volleyball trip, doesn’t score in the first half, finishes with just six points, but is again a huge factor with his ballhandling, shot-blocking, rebounding and defense.