By Paul Honda
The fairly large margin in Punahou’s 46-31 win over ‘Iolani last night may lead some fans to the wrong conclusion.
Yes, it was a close game, especially early in the third quarter. Here’s more on what happened after Punahou had a 22-15 halftime lead.
• ‘Iolani rallied at the start of the second half with an 8-2 run. Jarrett Arakawa’s 3-pointer and a pair of foul shots by reserve center Gabriel Vega brought the visitors within 24-23 with 3:27 left in the third, but the Raiders never regained the lead.
• Punahou’s Henry Cassiday hit a 3-pointer to give Punahou a five-point lead midway through the third, and after ‘Iolani got within 32-29 on a trey by Reid Saito and a foul shot by Trevyn Tulonghari, DeForest Buckner hustled for a putback at the buzzer.
“Henry hit that big 3, and that shot at the end of the third swung the momentum back to us,” Punahou coach Alika Smith said.
Punahou put the game out of reach with a 12-2 run, limiting ‘Iolani to 1-for-7 shooting in the fourth quarter.
So that’s a quick synopsis of the second half. While Punahou continues to play well, there’s room for improvement. The Buffanblu were 1-for-13 from the arc, but made up for most of those misses with 11 offensive boards and a 35-18 edge overall.
What next for ‘Iolani, which is both No. 3 in the Star-Bulletin Boys Basketball Top 10 and No. 3 in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu? There’s no reason to panic. Why?
• Josiah Sukumaran had one outstanding offensive play, driving past either Buckner or Malik Johnson from the wing into the paint, then using a smooth spin move for a layup. It happened so quickly and fluidly, I expected to see more of that. Getting one of Punahou’s bigs into foul trouble would’ve been a priority, I imagined, but Sukumaran never got another real clear lane to go 1-on-1 again and he finished with only one bucket.
• Sophomore Gabriel Vega got some minutes, using his 6-5 frame and athleticism to make his mark. On one defensive play, he leaped and goaltended a short bank shot by Buckner, surprising everyone in Hemmeter Fieldhouse. It was the kind of play that could’ve put some doubt into the young pivots in white and blue, but Vega had limited playing time because ‘Iolani wanted a quick team on the court.
In other words, they love Vega (6-foot-5), but they’re not comfortable enough yet to have him on the floor with Sukumaran (6-3) and three guards.
“He’s the only guy who matches up (with Punahou’s posts),” Raiders coach Dean Shimamoto said.
Skill-wise, he’s not far off from Buckner and Johnson at all. Maybe he gets much more playing time in the next two meetings with Punahou.
• ‘Iolani’s strongest post defender, Kainoa Scheer, played in the first half despite a meniscus injury. He had two points, four rebounds and an assist, but was not a factor in the second half. When he’s loose and warmed up, the knee injury is not as much of a problem, he said. It’s when he sits after playing that the knee gets cold and stiff, and it’s almost impossible to be effective after that.
The only way to deal with the injury is to rest, and that requires time off the court, something the 6-2 junior doesn’t want to give up.
• The defensive work of Henry Cassiday and Taylor Crabb on ‘Iolani gunner Kainoa Chu didn’t go unrecognized by their teammates.
“Our defense on Chu was really good,” Buckner said. “Coach said he’s basically their whole offense. Henry and Taylor did a good job.”
• Point guard Matt Feldman was solid with four assists and just two turnovers.
“Coach wants us to have a smile on our faces and have fun, play unselfish ball,” the senior said.
Now that Punahou is still unbeaten in the ILH, Feldman can almost taste the possibilities.
“Basically, we control our seed into states. We gotta keep it up. We still gotta play hard,” he said.
• Smith, as usual, was all smiles after another Punahou game. It’s not just about winning for him; even when the Buffanblu lost to Kamehameha early in preseason, Smith smiled and saw great potential in his team.
He still sees plenty of room for improvement.
“We missed chippies inside and we usually hit some of those open shots,” he said of Punahou’s long-range shooting.
It says something about Smith and his upbringing in the world of his late father, Pete, a legendary coach at Kalaheo. Alika was a pure shooter at Kalaheo and later at the University of Hawaii. But this Punahou team is all about rebounding, defense and running the floor whenever possible. He’s given them a certain latitude — an alley-oop pass to Taylor Crabb went astray while the game was still close in the second half, but everyone on the bench took it in stride.
“They’ve worked hard and they get rewarded for how hard they work in practice,” the coach said. “We got a great effort and I like how well they worked together defensively.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done. We can’t be satisfied with where we are right now.”