The two scenarios were almost identical.
‘Iolani trailed Campbell (27-26) by one point and had possession of the ball with 26.3 seconds to go.
Kahuku trailed Kalaheo by one point (36-35) and had possession with 9.6 seconds left.
In ‘Iolani’s scenario, the ball was in the backcourt, but with Campbell sitting back in a zone, there was no immediate pressure.
In Kahuku’s scenario, the ball was at midcourt. Kalaheo extended its 2-3 zone coverage.
Here’s where things got different.
>> ‘Iolani had 3-point shooters on the court in point guard Erik Yamada, forward Robby Mann and guard Zach Gelacio. The Raiders also had 6-foot-8 Hugh Hogland on the low post. Campbell responded by staying its 1-2-2 zone, but the emphasis was now on Hogland, who drew a double team. Gelacio started the play on the left wing, but as the clock ticked below 10 seconds, he rolled behind the zone and ran to the right corner.
With the guard and forward on that side sloughing in to cover Hogland, the ball went to Gelacio, who didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger. His long 2-pointer was all net. ‘Iolani led 28-27 with 6 seconds left.
>> Kahuku had 3-point threats in Keanu Akina, Samuta Avea, point guard Tama Green and even forward Denhym Brooke. But the Red Raiders opted to take the higher-percentage option. They worked the ball to the left wing on the inbounds pass, where Avea then passes to the corner, looking for a quick give-and-go lob. Avea, a 6-5 leaper found his path blocked by Kalaheo’s Kupaa Harrison, who had anticipated correctly. That left the Red Raiders with other options that required spontaneity.
The ball wound up in the hands of Akina near the top of the key. Normally, he’s a deadly sharpshooter more than willing to knock down an open shot. But Kalaheo’s Kekai Smith was up on Akina, who had to make a move. He drove inside the arc and, again, Harrison was there, using his 6-5 frame to obstruct another Kahuku scorer looking to win the game. Akina went airborne at the left elbow. He hung in mid-air and let a scoop shot go. The ball was on line, but met the front of the rim before falling back. By the time Kesi Ah-Hoy got to it in mid-air for a putback, it was too late. The bright red lights around the backboard went off, and Ah-Hoy’s shot missed anyway.
Kalaheo won 36-35.
Two choices, and there really are no bad ones in these scenarios. Kalaheo opted to take away any kind of backside lob, taking its chances on Kahuku’s guards taking a 2-point shot. The more the shot is contested, the better. Campbell opted to sag into the low post and deny Hogland any chance to win the game. He had buried post-up jump hooks with either hand early in the fourth quarter. Leading by a single point, the Sabers preferred to take their chances with the cold-shooting Raiders (0-for-7 from the arc) rather than let Hogland have his way.
If Gelacio had missed that corner shot, the Sabers likely get the rebound — thought that’s not a guarantee, of course — with less than 6 seconds left. They get fouled and go to the foul line. Who knows what would’ve happened from there, but a Campbell victory is probable.
In those last seconds after Gelacio hit the 2-point bucket, the Sabers lost precious time when they hesitated. The ball was passed in before time out was called with 3.6 seconds left. They still had to take the ball out of bounds behind the baseline, 94 feet from their basket. If they had called time out immediately, maybe there’s 5 seconds on the clock.
The inbounds pass went downcourt, deflected by Hogland, and Gelacio was fouled with eight-tenths of a second left. The game is still not over. He makes the first foul shot for a 29-27 lead. The second shot misses, and as David Marrero hauls the rebound in, time out is called. An official’s whistle blew, but ‘Iolani coach Dean Shimamoto argues that Marrero hadn’t even secured the ball. He’s right.
Nonetheless, the clock stopped with two-tenths of a second to play. The Sabers pass to Michael Merchant, whose halfcourt shot reaches the rim, but misses. Would it have counted? The NBA has a rule about similar plays. When there is .3 or less of 1 second to play, only a tip is permitted on the inbounds play. I’m not sure what the high school rule is. (Paging Tom Yoshida. Paging Mason Souza.)
In any event, both games were fairly slow-paced and conservative, both with dramatic finishes. ‘Iolani’s grind-it-out style continues to flourish in state-tournament environments. The Raiders get a chance to win their second state crown in a row tomorrow night. It’s a style that may not win the ILH — not this season, anyway — but at states, where great shooters often go cold under the big lights, the Raiders’ obsession with great shot selection works just fine.
For Kahuku, a chance to win with a buzzer-beater didn’t end according to plan. In their second meeting with Kalaheo, the result was the same: a close, heartbreaking loss. The first time, it was technical fouls that spurred Kalaheo’s comeback — a slight lack of discipline and self-control by the Red Raiders on the floor. This time, it was Hyrum Harris’ foul trouble — he logged in just 16 minutes of action — and his struggle in the post against Kalaheo’s diabolically effective game plan that were the heart of the game story.
Kalaheo dared Harris to drive to the hoop, and though he normally has success with that — reverse layups with his opposite hand are not a problem — I can’t remember him connecting with Brooke for a lob all night long. Harris is a big, clever passer who probably could’ve scored a lot more points in the paint if he weren’t double- and triple-teamed so often. It got to the point that he sometimes wouldn’t face the basket, even 5 feet away, preferring to kick the ball to open teammates at the 3-point line.
This may sound old-fashioned, but I always felt that if your bench and teammates — and coaches — are aware of the clock, of a defender chasing down one of your teammates from behind, stuff like that, it should always be verbalized. Maybe it’s part of the deal when new teammates arrive during preseason. The chemistry isn’t going to develop fully in just two months. But Kahuku had a nice game going every night. I just wonder if yelling out “single cover” would’ve helped Harris or Brooke or anyone else catching the ball 5 to 10 feet from the hoop. Lord knows they passed up their share of opportunities, and often, the decision to kick the ball out worked out.
The way this game unfolded at the end wasn’t a lot different from that loss to Farrington in the OIA final. A dunk to take the lead in that game (by Avea). A fastbreak dunk by Brooke in this one. Both followed by go-ahead 3-pointers, the first by Jake Smith, this one by Harrison.
It’ll be tough for me to rank Kahuku lower than third when the final ballot for the Top 10 arrives in the e-mailbox on Sunday. There could be an argument that the Red Raiders could be No. 2. Maybe they’ll be No. 2b. It was that close this year in the OIA East and in the state tourney. One point away.