With Micah Christenson, the Kamehameha Warriors are on top of the world.
Without him, they’re vulnerable. Tough, scrappy and very good, but capable of falling. On Dec. 29, the 6-foot-5 junior was away for a mainland volleyball trip, and ‘Iolani upended Kamehameha 57-46 in the final of Na Menehune Holiday Classic.
With him, the Warriors beat the Raiders at ‘Iolani 49-47 on Jan. 12.
Is it that simple? Mostly. But there are other factors. Here’s a look before the Raiders (13-7, 6-2 ILH) and Warriors (17-3, 7-1) tangle tonight at Kekuhaupi‘o Gym. Tip-off is 7 p.m.
• ‘Iolani is tougher in the post when 6-2 Kainoa Scheer is on the court, but his meniscus injury is not going to heal until he gets complete rest. He’s willing to play in pain, but it’s difficult to keep the knee loose and warm unless he’s moving. Maybe riding a stationary bike during his stints on the bench might help. Or not.
• Kamehameha’s best perimeter defender, Chaz Bajet, is done for the year after undergoing knee surgery recently. That makes the matchup with ‘Iolani scorer Kainoa Chu a higher priority, and it had been high already. The Warriors like to mix defenses, but a 2-3 zone against a good passing team with accurate zonebusters — Chu, Andrew Skalman and Jarrett Arakawa have been effective — is always a risk.
• The Raiders’ trapping defense has been solid, but they haven’t forced turnovers consistently — or with ravenous efficiency — since the last state title team led by Kyle Pape. Still among the best defensive teams in the state, the Raiders could use more turnovers for easy points. In lieu of a low-post offense the provides some balance.
• If there’s a team that can possibly contain Kamehameha’s hustling forward, Charlton Tang, it might be ‘Iolani. Tang has punished foes in transition this season, including 9-for-10 shooting for 19 points in a win at Punahou last week.
By Paul Honda