By Paul Honda
OK, my hopes and roundball dreams of a tilt on the scoreboard at Moanalua on Saturday were dashed. Kalaheo wasn’t going to average 25 points per quarter en route to a 100-point night. Neither was Moanalua, though the home team did its part to make shots and push the tempo sometimes.
No, there was no real shot of a run-and-gun game. I knew it was unrealistic, and yet, there I was that afternoon, pining and yearning for that frantic, pinball-machine pace. Kalaheo had 20 points late in the third quarter, partly due to sub-par shooting and partly due to a smart, swarming Moanalua man defense.
As Kalaheo coach Chico Furtado said after the game, Moanalua did a good job of switching on screens, switching on everything. That’s one of the perks of having a smart defense, a fairly athletic unit.
It was just the regular-season opener and there’s plenty of ball ahead. Factor in the way the Oahu Interscholastic Association treats the regular season as pool play* and it’s a blip on the screen — and more. While one win or loss won’t necessarily kill a team’s hopes this early, emotionally and cerebrally, Moanalua has to be stoked. Without a lights-out shooting performance, Na Menehune relied on defense for this win. Defense? Yeah, high school players taking the work element of the game to heart.
Kalaheo worked hard, too, no question. But Moanalua is a step ahead on both sides of the floor. More flow, more chemistry, more familiarity. Kalaheo will get there eventually, once the new starters and role players find their footing.
Tonight, three games in the OIA West and three in the East. Kaimuki goes to Moanalua in another interesting matchup. The Bulldogs have looked better as the season has moved along. Gabriel Stietzel has a quick release and a gunslinger’s mentality from the arc. A lot of fans are wondering if and when Desmond Tautofi will return after Jan. 15 (from Bishop Gorman, Las Vegas), but Kaimuki can become a solid team even without him. The pieces are there: shooters, ballhandlers and athletic posts. Add a great coach (Kelly Grant) and it’s hard to write off the ‘Dogs. Ever.
Kalaheo hosts McKinley, which means the Mustangs can even their league record. It would be a mistake for any team to look past a Bob Morikuni-coached squad. Mustangs, beware.
Kaiser visits Farrington, the latter a team that has gone back to Division I after winning the D-II state title two seasons ago. The Governors aren’t as skilled or deep as that title team, but they have enough athleticism and guard play to compete with everyone.
Out West, the Campbell-Aiea game could intrigue. Campbell coach Wyatt Tau returns to his former program, which he led to an unbeaten D-II season two years ago. Kristian Manuel has been a force in the backcourt for three seasons now, which is good news for the Sabers. Are they the best team in the West? Or is it Mililani, which got 28 points (a career high) from 6-foot-4 Hassan Richardson recently.
Of these six OIA games, only Campbell-Aiea has a reasonable shot of going at a frenetic pace. Coaches aren’t usually gung-ho about letting the leash get slack, not after a day off (Sunday) and just one practice (Monday). Players are inching toward that mid-season lull, as well. Then again, today was the first day of school since mid-December. Maybe teams will feed off their school’s energy.
One of the more entertaining “leagues” has to be ILH D-II. It’s a fairly competitive field with Kamehameha II and Punahou II playing very well — beating their share of D-I programs in preseason — and a number of quality smaller programs.
Lanakila Baptist (Chase Hazelwood), Christian Academy (Jason Ko), AOP (Micah Dunhour), Island Pacific (Theo Duplechain) and Le Jardin have fun teams to watch. They’ve got just enough offense to keep fans piqued. If time weren’t a factor, I’d see as many ILH D-II games as possible. I love small-school hoops, whether it’s here or on the neighbor islands. Give me a Kohala-Honokaa game (which usually fills most of the gym) any day.
The last ILH D-II boys basketball game I watched was years ago, maybe 2001 or ’02, a game between University and Lanakila Baptist at Klum Gym. A lot of scoring and a lot of fanatical hysteria in those old, rickety wooden bleachers. If memory serves right , the Junior ‘Bows won 72-69.
My name is Paul, and I am a hoopaholic.