It’s all fun and games until a little fire gets going, and that’s partly how the OIA squad, led by Tolu Smith, edged the ILH team 97-96 on Saturday night in the fifth annual Geremy Robinson Senior Classic at Blaisdell Center.
Smith, Kahuku’s superlative 6-foot-10 center, finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds despite a minor knee injury in the first half.
Down 97-94, the ILH squad had two shots from the arc in the final seconds, but missed. One of them was blocked by Smith, though the ILH bench pleaded for a foul call. Jalen Smith (Saint Louis) of the ILH scored on a follow shot as time expired for the final one-point margin.
It was possibly the best boys battle in the Classic’s short history with OIA coach Gary Ellison and ILH coach Kelly Grant using every reserve, usually in five-in, five-out substitutions during a high-pace, fast-tempo battle that left fans entertained.
“It’s kind of crazy. It’s a way to go out, to get a win (in the Classic),” said Smith, who has signed to play for Western Kentucky.
Still, it was more of a friendly battle until the second half as the ILH squad rallied from a 92-82 deficit to within 95-94 after Jordyn Perez stole the ball and fed Maryknoll classmate Isiah Gelacio for a corner 3 with :30.9 left.
At that point, there was more than enough motivation for the OIA squad, especially with a horde of state-tourney standouts on the other side.
“It didn’t matter until the second half when they started talking smack, telling us ‘We got the (state championship) ring,’” Smith said. “But it’s all love after the game.”
Smith hit two free throws with 26 seconds left for a 97-94 lead, and then came the long-range misses before the buzzer.
Zoar Nedd (Kapolei) added 22 points, seven rebounds and four assists in a standout effort for the OIA. Kalaheo’s Andrew Kearney, showing no effects of his season-long ankle injury, muscled inside for 12 points and a team-high 11 boards. Cameron Henry (Mililani) sparked the second group with 10 points and Caleb Casinas added nine.
Gelacio (Maryknoll) led the ILH squad with 21 points, including 4-for-9 from the arc. Kobe Young (Kamehameha) added 20 points, including several slam dunks on drives through traffic. He also grabbed five rebounds. Zayne Chong (Punahou) and Kamren Victorino-Kato added 11 points each.
Nedd is still deciding on college. He said before the season that he has a few offers, but wouldn’t divulge any additional details. For now, he’s enjoying life as a senior, one of the best hoopsters in the islands.
“I’m excited for what’s coming next. This the first time I got to play with college-level players, especially a big like Tolu,” Nedd said.
McKinley senior guard Kyle Moraga was a key ballhandler against the ILH’s tough man-to-man pressure. The OIA squad played with plenty of chemistry with and without Smith on the floor.
“We made it so fun for each other. YUM — that’s what our motto was. That’s from Zoar,” Moraga said.
“We all kind of gelled,” Nedd added.
Victorino-Kato edged Kearney for the slam-dunk contest title. His best scores came on a windmill dunk involving a lob off the bounce, and then a duplicate of a dunk he saw on video.
“I watched the 2004 All-American dunk contest with LeBron (James) and Shannon Brown,” he said.
Brown’s 360-degree dunk off one leg hasn’t been done often since, but Victorino-Kato wowed the crowd and the judging panel with his explosion.
“It’s hard. I practiced it two times (on Friday). Coach Gary (Ellison) said it’s about how high you get,” he said. “I couldn’t see the rim. It’s all instinct.”
Henry, the Mililani sharpshooter, edged HBA’s long-range bomber, Micah Mitchell, in the second extra stanza to take the boys 3-point shooting contest title.