Some notes on tonight’s key battle for second place — and a state-tournament berth — in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu between Kamehameha and Punahou.
Defending state champ Kamehameha (20-5) is ranked No. 3 in the Star-Bulletin Boys Basketball Top 10. Punahou (19-3) is No. 2.
• The game is at Punahou with a tipoff time of 6:30 p.m. There won’t be a lot of homecourt advantage, though. Kamehameha won at Hemmeter Fieldhouse on Jan. 29, 60-49, behind 19 points by reserve forward and chief energizer Charlton Tang (9-for-10 shooting). Dyrbe Enos, a sophomore, was clutch with three treys and Kamehameha shot 60 percent from the field (21-for-35).
• Punahou won an earlier regular-season game (Jan. 7) at Kamehameha, 48-45. The Buffanblu had a 41-24 edge on the boards, led by DeForest Buckner’s monstrous 13-point, 23-rebound effort. When they met again, Kamehameha narrowed the game and Punahou’s advantage on the glass was only 26-20.
The Warriors made it a point to send in a guard to “chip” Buckner, leaving the athletic 6-foot-7 sophomore to battle two foes for rebounds. He finished with nine boards.
• Malik Johnson, a 6-5 sophomore, had a big game (20 points, 11 boards) when the teams met in preseason at the Jim Alegre Invitational, but has been somewhat quiet during the regular season. With guard Taylor Crabb done for the season (ankle) and swingman Henry Cassiday (knee bruise) not quite 100 percent, Johnson might get more touches and opportunities the rest of the way.
Crabb’s athleticism and leadership will be missed, but he was primarily a long-range shooter who rarely passed up a shot inside 24 feet. A more conservative approach on the perimeter should yield more production for mid-range weapons like Johnson.
• Cassiday is a key defender, one of the top stoppers in the state. If his bruised knee won’t allow him to slow Micah Christenson down, who gets the assignment? ‘Iolani found itself a stopper in Trevyn Tulonghari a few weeks back when he glued himself to Christenson in a big win at Kekuhaupi‘o Gym. Tulonghari, who is 6 inches shorter than the 6-5 Christenson, did enough down the stretch to limit the sharpshooter’s shot attempts. If stubbornness and agility are prerequisites for becoming a stopper, is there one in the Punahou lineup aside from Cassiday?
• If Tang repeats his previous effort against Punahou, he’ll outrun everyone for at least two or three uncontested layups in transition. In a low-possession, high-intensity matchup, those buckets would be worth gold.
By Paul Honda