The whirlwinds of high school basketball aren’t contained to the Interscholastic League of Honolulu (take your pick, D-I or D-II).
Nope, they’re alive and well in the OIA East, where a No. 1 team (Kaiser) fell on the road (at Kailua) and a No. 4 team (Kalaheo) fell on the road. Which was more impressive? Hmm…
At Theodore Roosevelt High School gymnasium, where half-moon backboards were part of the landscape through the 1980s, it was unranked Roosevelt that shocked No. 1 Kaiser 62-58 in overtime on Wednesday night.
Coach Steve Hathaway felt all preseason that his team needed practice reps more than game play. True for young teams, and the Rough Riders had shown flashes of potential to this point.
On Wednesday, they were in a slugfest with the visiting Cougars from the start. Kaiser was down a man, potential all-state player of the year Chance Kalaugher, who had just gotten stitches on his right elbow and was available to play in emergency mode only.
As Hathaway put it, “Even without him, they have way more talent than we do.”
So how to explain an unexpected — by most of the prep hoops community — victory by Roosevelt?
“Jared (Elwin) played awesome,” Hathaway said of his sophomore point guard. “And so did Koki.”
Elwin was 3-for-3 from deep.
“Jared handled their pressure and played his best game,” Hathaway said.
Koki is Nayton Koki, who transferred back to his old stomping grounds from Liberty (Nev.) after playing football on the mainland. He had three games worth of action prior to the Kaiser matchup with mixed results. At 6-foot-4 and roughly 245 pounds, he is easily the most experienced big in Roosevelt’s lineup.
He had 15 points and 12 rebounds in his best performance to date. His value is almost immeasurable for a gritty, but relatively small Rough Riders squad. He isn’t starting, but coming off the bench has fit him like an old glove.
“Lio (Ilalio) earned that spot,” Hathaway said of his 6-foot freshman. “Micah (Visoria) hit two big threes late in the game that really helped,” Hathaway added.
But there was something else, something that still makes Hathaway crack up little more than 12 hours later.
“I was in the middle of one of my best pre-game speeches ever, getting the team fired up,” he said. “Then somebody’s phone rang. It was one of the kids.”
Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus, Take The Wheel” was the ringtone. After a second or two of silence, the entire team started laughing.
“It was just ironic,” Hathaway said. “We came out loose. I told them, ‘We’re not going to pray, but maybe Jesus wants us to win tonight.’ ”
Hathaway’s team will compete later for the OIA’s Division II title and, perhaps, for the state D-II crown. He’s not looking that far ahead, though. And he still has high marks for the Kaiser Cougars.
“I still think Kaiser’s the best team in the state,” he said. “We caught a break with Chance out.”