By Paul Honda
If there were more hours in the day and days in the week, there would be more opportunities to see teams like Roosevelt’s boys hoopsters, who fought off a stubborn Kalani squad 53-43 last night.
Heck, if cost weren’t a factor, I’d see a lot more of St. Joseph boys, Konawaena girls, even Lahainaluna and Kamehameha-Maui boys. There are a decent number of teams that were very, very good before the regular season even began, and there are other teams that have taken big steps forward in the last few weeks. I want to see them all.
Last night’s matchup between eighth-ranked Roosevelt and Kalani was Plan B, and an on-the-fly one at that. When we learned yesterday (Wednesday) that the Mililani-Campbell game had been rescheduled and played on Tuesday, that left a gap there. Two games were intriguing: this one and Waianae-Pearl City.
In the end, my editor directed me to Roosevelt. Finally, for the first time this season, I got to see Kaipo Pale play. Go back a month and I saw Roosevelt play without their big man on the final day of the St. Francis Merv Lopes Classic; Pale had a sore Achilles’ tendon.
This time, he was just fine. Nineteen points, 25 rebounds fine. He was a beast. He did it with agility. He was slippery. He was aggressive. He was relentless. He was not reckless. He was not selfish. He was not look-at-me, my-shirt-is-untucked cocky, but he has a swagger, a quiet swagger. I don’t think that would change whether he was playing high school ball or college hoops or pickup games with kids at the park.
(Note: Though the roster lists him as a senior, I learned today that Pale is a junior.)
Kalani is no cakewalk. Angelo Berardy is a returning OIA White first-team pick by coaches. They have size underneath and capable guards. But Pale and his teammates push the tempo constantly before working the halfcourt game. Often, he snared rebounds, made the outlet pass and sprinted past smaller players downcourt. He led at least two fastbreaks.
Pale might be one of the best two or three ballhandlers on his team, and he’s 6-foot-3.
Some notes on the game.
• Kalani opened with a man-to-man defense and held its own, leading 5-4 after three minutes. When Roosevelt went ahead 7-5 with less than four minutes left in the opening quarter, Kalani reverted back to a 2-3 zone and stayed in it for the rest of the night.
• The Falcons employed some halfcourt trapping in the second quarter with some effective results. Roosevelt finished with 24 turnovers; Kalani had just 11. But the Falcons just couldn’t take advantage of those extra possessions by shooting 23 percent (13-for-56).
• Late in the second quarter, Roosevelt’s 12-point lead nearly dissipated after Pale left the game. After getting hit on the arm, he had no feeling in it for a minute, but later recovered. Kalani got seven points in a span of 55 seconds from guard Tatsuya Ono, and a last-second layup by Jordan Yogi to pull within 24-21.
• A technical foul against Roosevelt’s bench as the half ended resulted in two foul shots for Kalani to start the second half. Then Bryson Yorita’s 3-pointer from the corner tied it at 26-all with 5:42 left in the third quarter. It seemed an upset was in the making. When was the last time Kalani upset a Top 10 team in boys hoops? Can’t think of an instance. I can remember when Everett Frye was tearing it up for the Falcons back in the 1990s. I can go back to the early ’80s when Kendall Ellingsworth and Kevin Nakamoto led Kalani to the playoffs. But since the ’90s? Drawing a blank …
• Roosevelt coach Steve Hathaway wasn’t worried.
“I thought we’d wear them down eventually. Most of our wins, we put teams away in the fourth quarter. The same thing happened against Kailua. I know what our team is capable of,” he said.
The Rough Riders limited Kalani to 2-for-15 shooting in the third quarter, but managed to open the lead to just 32-28 going into the fourth. Then it became a battle of wills. Roosevelt crashed the boards relentlessly all game and Kalani couldn’t answer. The edge on the glass in the third quarter: 16-7 for Roosevelt. Fourth quarter: 9-4 for the Rough Riders.
• Roosevelt’s aggressiveness paid off with free throws. Brendan Nakatani, their energizer rabbit, scored 10 of his 14 points from the line. He also had four of his team’s eight steals. Roosevelt was 25-for-42 from the line; Kalani shot 13-for-20 there.
• Kalani is a bubble team, now 2-2 in league play including an earlier loss to defending White Conference champ Kailua. When the Falcons shoot well, they’re dangerous against anybody. Among their nonconference wins was a close one over Kaimuki.
• Roosevelt is athletic, aggressive and has fairly good chemistry. Zone is the way to go if you’re on the other bench — as Kalani planned — but keeping Pale off the boards is tough, tough, tough.
• “Happy? A win’s a win,” Hathaway said. “Did we play our best? No. We made way too many mistakes, but Kalani’s a good team. I’m glad Kaipo’s there to grab all the rebounds.”