The first game of the day, the final day of the ‘Iolani Classic, matches up No. 10 Kahuku and Kaimuki. The Bulldogs have been up in the past week — an upset win over then-No. 5 Leilehua — and down. But it’s not the same down I’ve seen with a few other teams. Kaimuki’s not tall, not extremely skilled, but they play hard from start to finish. There have been lesser efforts in the dog days of preseason.
Kahuku? Blessed with height, size and enough shooting (Keanu Akina) to be one of the top teams in the OIA.
The Red Raiders were off and running before Shanson Kapanui, Kobe Hedgar and Sifo Lauvao hit consecutive 3-pointers to cut the lead to 26-22. Kahuku then finished with an 11-4 run. The little mistakes — an entry pass off by two feet (turnover), a late close out (fouling Akina at the arc), not running plays precisely — are what can kill smaller teams. The luxury of size allows for a few more mistakes. The margin is not as narrow.
Kahuku leads at the half 37-26. The most commonly asked question I get about the Red Raiders is this: Are there any New Zealand players this year? Apparently, the answer is no. They have 6-5 Bradlee Anae and 6-4 Hirkley Latu, as well as 6-4 behemoth Ra Elkington. Oh, and there’s 6-3 Taimona Wright and 6-2 Aaron Souza. But no, no Kiwis this season.
Kaimuki’s biggest and most effective banger in the paint is Billy Masima (6-2, 215), who has been gone all tournament. I’m told he was on the mainland for an official football visit. Yes, the Bulldogs miss him, but without him, they’re learning to play Very Small Ball against relative giants.
Back-to-back treys by Akina has Big Red up 49-29. The first 3 was nice. But Kaimuki basically gave him the same look at the same spot a few seconds later. Hard to teach basketball IQ in the span of just three preseason weeks. But these coaches try their best.
Kahuku 49, Kaimuki 29, end Q3.
Hedgar a sparkplug with steals and hustle plays (great save on a loose ball/strip) and Kaimuki is on a modest 6-0 run. Kahuku leads 56-43 with 3:05 left.