Then there were two

The long shots have bowed out gracefully.

• AOP, with its hearty leader (Micah Dunhour) and stalwart role players, was amazing for two nights. But the cumulative effect of those difficult wins over Roosevelt and Moanalua took a toll. Kamehameha was simply too fresh, too accurate and too good last night.

• Kamehameha-Hawaii has the misfortune of drawing Kamehameha in the quarterfinal. It’s always difficult to win at states, more so when your opponent shares a strength. KS-Kapalama saw on-ball, halfcourt and fullcourt pressure all season. Between practice and battles with ‘Iolani, they handle the pressure well. For KS-Hawaii, not getting easy points off its press was a big drawback. A different draw and maybe the BIIF champs reach the semifinals. Young team of mostly juniors will still be strong next year.

• Moanalua was an anomaly of sorts. Extremely quick. The best transition team in the tournament. But for all its scoring ability, Moanalua was a team that struggled to finish games in the regular season. That problem seemed corrected in the playoffs, but reared up again in the loss to AOP. Losing by one point in OT against a terrific opponent is a tough pill to swallow, but it’s clear Moanalua is right there with any other contender in the state.

• Kahuku, on a good night, can run well, hit 3s and hang with any foe. But last night showed that the Red Raiders were dependent on scoring to initiate their tough fullcourt press. When points are hard to come by, as they are for any team playing ‘Iolani, there isn’t much going for Plan B. Kahuku stayed in basic halfcourt defense and ‘Iolani worked that halfcourt offense, and worked it … and worked it.

The favorites

• ‘Iolani showed in the semifinal last night that it will not change, will not be lured into anything. The Raiders stick to the game plan, the blueprint. They know their own DNA. It was the kind of game that has a lot of fans (and some media) clamoring for a shot clock. I wouldn’t disagree. But, as I’ve mentioned before online, any team that lacks a halfcourt trap is vulnerable to a smart, patient, grind-it-out program like ‘Iolani. A halfcourt press has its risks, but without it, the tempo will be dictated by a team that wants to limit possessions and kill the pace.

Credit to ‘Iolani. They know what works for the personnel on this year’s team.

• Kamehameha is doing something different, right? How else to explain 78 points per game in the state tourney. They showed no signs of slowing down in a semifinal win over AOP. Though AOP limited Kamehameha to “only” seven 3-pointers made, the Warriors took advantage of wide lanes and penetrated well. There’s no way to completely stop Micah Christenson. You pick your poison and hope to survive the night when it comes to defending the Warriors.

So many scoring threats, and then Shane Matayoshi’s return from injury gives them one more a) long-range sharpshooter, b) fresh legs on defense, c) experienced returnee.  They’re getting their usual plus performances from Dyrbe Enos, but the play of Matayoshi and reserve guard Frank Ho — realistically, he could make the all-tourney team if he keeps playing like this — are huge factors.

In the end, though, Christenson is having the finest state tournament I’ve seen by an individual in years. The scary part is, he’s not even set up in isos or posting low every possession. It’s all within the parameters of Coach Jesse Nakanishi’s offensive sets. There’s no cockiness or extreme in emotional levels for this team. They simply play balls out and execute on a professional level, cool and collected.

Frankly, it’s a toss-up tonight. Rankings out the door. Kamehameha won’t score 80 again. ‘Iolani will make sure of that. But if the Warriors get hot and keep the pace fast, the Raiders would have to chase. That’s a huge ‘if.’

First to 50 wins.

Division II showdown

Farrington meets defending state champion Pahoa in the D-II final, 5 p.m. The Govs barely got past St. Joseph, but was that really a surprise that the game was close? As I wrote in the tourney preview, an eight-team tourney in D-II is never going to be predictable. St. Joe has been formidable since Harry Scanlan-Leite became head coach, and there’s plenty of talent in Hilo to go around.

St. Joe was a D-I power in the BIIF going back decades. With a smaller enrollment, the school has made do with its limited resources, and Coach Scanlan-Leite is one of their most valuable assets. So, no, no surprise that the Govs almost went down against the Cardinals. (Also no surprise that McKinley came so close to reach the semifinal.)

Then Farrington squeaked past University in a controversial finish, 57-55, last night. See the controversial 5-second violation call on Felipe Ojastro’s Facebook page here. The game-winning shot by Farrington’s J.P. Saycon is here.

It was a heartbreaking loss for University on a borderline call, but Saycon’s ability has never been questioned. Coach Allan Silva called him a Top 5 talent in the state. Without Ryan Reyes, however, every game has been tougher than ever for Farrington. Reyes is out with an ankle injury, Silva said.

As for Pahoa, one year wiser and stronger, but again, they’re doing this without last year’s D-II state tourney most outstanding player Isaiah Ekau, who graduated. Nick Fisher has led the charge. While Farrington benefited from a strong nonconference schedule — the Govs lost to ‘Iolani 46-42 at the AOP Classic — Pahoa has gained from continuing to play in an integrated BIIF schedule. There, D-I and D-II teams mesh during the regular season for practical purposes, i.e. less travel by splitting the league into West and East divisions.

The greatness tips off at 5 p.m. and continues with the D-I final at 7. See you there.

Paul Honda, Star-Advertiser


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