By Paul Honda
There are a lot of reasons why tonight’s showdown between No. 3 Punahou and No. 1 Kamehameha on the hardwood at Kekuhaupi‘o Gym is so appetizing.
Those of us who saw the teams play four weeks ago in the final of the James Alegre Invitational were treated to a great game — so early in preseason — that whetted the appetites of Punahou fans. Kamehameha had to fight hard, getting clutch shooting from Micah Christenson (24 points, 10 in the fourth quarter) to pull out the 58-55 win.
But Punahou already had one starter, 6-foot-6 Malik Johnson, playing big-time ball (20 points, 11 boards). Since then, players like guard Taylor Crabb have come around. With 6-6 Deforest Buckner and 6-5, 272-pound Kaiwi Crabb finding their basketball legs after a long football season, Punahou has size, girth, length and speed on the floor.
First-year Buffanblu coach Alika Smith could smile after that preseason loss to Kamehameha, the defending state champion. Smith saw then how much potential his team has. Even more, he always envisioned putting his athletic team to work through fullcourt pressure, utilizing the team’s depth. After all, with Crabb towering in the middle, speedy bigs like Johnson and Stevenson can focus on filling the lanes, and point guard Matt Feldman can enjoy multiple targets on the fast break.
Punahou has raised expectations with its play in the past month, winning the St. Francis Merv Lopes Classic, but hasn’t proven just yet that it can win in crunch time against Kamehameha.
Tonight, the Buffanblu get their chance. Tip-off is 7 p.m.