Pre-game: ‘Iolani-Kamehameha, boys hoops

They are the two best teams in the state.

Any other teams that disagree had their chances and missed the opportunities. When top-seeded ‘Iolani (20-7) and defending state champ Kamehameha (26-6) tangle in the final of the Hawaiian Airlines/HHSAA Boys Basketball Division I State Championships tonight, there will be very little mystery involved.

Here’s look at ‘Iolani versus Kamehameha, the 2009-10 season chapter:

Dec. 30, 2009: ‘Iolani 57, Kamehameha 46

This was the final of Moanalua’s Na Menehune Holiday Classic. It was an interesting week or two for both teams. ‘Iolani began preseason with four starters missing at an earlier tourney in Hilo. A big reason for that was football; the Raiders played deep into the postseason, winning the Division II state title.

They got things rolling in late December, though, and beat a Kamehameha team that reached the Menehune final despite the absence of Micah Christenson. The 6-foot-5 junior was busy on the mainland at a volleyball tourney.

Jan. 12, 2010: Kamehameha 49, ‘Iolani 47

With Christenson there, the Warriors went to ‘Iolani’s gym and took the wind out of the Raiders’ sails. It was the first of two losses for ‘Iolani in a nine-day span, sending them into third place.

The Raiders were playing fairly well despite Kainoa Scheer’s meniscus injury and Trevyn Tulonghari’s prolonged shooting slump. Scheer had problems keeping his knee warm and loose while sitting for minutes at a time. Tulonghari’s long football season played a factor in his shooting woes, but everything else in his game was solid, so the Raiders didn’t fret.

Jan. 30: ‘Iolani 67, Kamehameha 63

The Raiders came up big and stunned the Warriors at Kekuhaupi‘o Gym. Tulonghari’s outside shot started to come around, and coach Dean Shimamoto was relying more and more on his deep bench. Gabriel Vega, a 6-6 sophomore, was ready for prime time.

Feb. 20: ‘Iolani 50, Kamehameha 49

This game decided the Interscholastic League of Honolulu championship after the top three (including Punahou) finished tied at 10-2. Tulonghari’s 3-pointer won it at the buzzer, and the Warriors were just beginning a long, hard road to the state tourney.

From that point, Kamehameha met Punahou and lost 65-59 in another tiebreaker. That allowed Punahou to secure the ILH’s second state berth, and Kamehameha had to go through the league’s third-place tourney. The Warriors beat Damien 75-41 and Mid-Pacific 51-40 to finish third, then travelled to Honokaa for a 76-60 win that sealed a state berth.

Long, tough road, indeed.

Tonight’s 7 p.m. championship game will likely be more of a game in the 40s than 60s, though the Raiders have enough firepower to play at any tempo.

Sophomore Jourdan Simmonds has enjoyed increased playing time. His long-range shooting could be a crucial zonebuster tonight. Kamehameha relies heavily on its 2-3 matchup zone, a good strategy against teams that lack accurate shooters.

Kamehameha, meanwhile, got a boost from guard Chaz Bajet, who returned this week from a progressive surgical procedure that involved the cartilage in his knee.

His poise and ballhandling are big plusses for a Kamehameha team that is going to play its fifth game in six nights.

The key matchup I’ll be watching involves Christenson. ‘Iolani used Tulonghari (off the bench in a platoon rotation) and Kainoa Chu on Kahuku’s Nehoa Akina last night. Akina wound up shooting 5-for-17.

Christenson might do something different and post up on Tulonghari (5-11) and Chu (5-10) if that’s the matchup he gets.

As one of the best free-throw shooters in the state, it might work out for the Warriors. Then again, the effectiveness of that three-guard weave offense might be hampered if Christenson plants himself into the low post often.

It’s a good problem to have if you’re Kamehameha coach Jesse Nakanishi.

Paul Honda, Star-Bulletin


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