By Paul Honda
The difference between regular-season games in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu and Oahu Interscholastic Association is simple.
In the ILH, a state-tournament berth is the carrot. In the OIA, pre-playoff games are for seeding purposes. In effect, it’s all pool play.
That’s why there’s very little additional motivation required for a matchup between Kamehameha and ‘Iolani.
On paper: Second-ranked ‘Iolani is 2-0 in league play (9-5 overall) and coming off a decisive 47-21 win over Mid-Pacific (Saturday). Kamehameha (11-3, 1-1) fell from No. 1 to No. 3 following a 48-45 home loss to Punahou last week.
With Punahou playing well, Kamehameha does not want to fall two games behind the leader, especially with an automatic state-tourney berth going to the regular-season winner.
Micah Christenson wasn’t there when these teams met on Dec. 30 in the final of Moanalua’s Na Menehune Holiday Classic. Kamehameha missed its leading scorer and rebounder, who was on the mainland for a volleyball tournament, but posted tremendous come-from-behind wins during the tourney without him.
‘Iolani shot a whopping 55 percent from the field against the Christenson-less Warriors in a 57-46 win. Maybe more interesting is this: Kamehameha had more turnovers than field goals, which may say more about Christenson’s value as a big target (6-foot-5) and ballhandler.
The skinny: Kamehameha looked slightly out of sync in the loss to Punahou, but with Christenson back and practicing after that one-week hiatus, all systems are go. Will that be enough to beat a hot ‘Iolani squad on the Raiders’ court?
‘Iolani has go-to scorers in Kainoa Chu and Trevyn Tulonghari, but even when they’re not scoring, defense remains the foundation.
X factor: ‘Iolani center Josiah Sukumaran (6-3) had 11 points in the previous meeting. How will he fare with Christenson under the boards? Sukumaran is lanky, flexible and deceptively strong. Even if he doesn’t post big numbers, he could be a problem if Christenson is out of position and picks up fouls.