By Paul Honda
Aaron Fernandez scored 17 points despite a box-and-one defense as Kalaheo rallied from an early six-point deficit to beat Island Pacific 56-47 Tuesday night in the Walter Wong Classic final at McCabe Gym.
IPA zoomed to an 18-12 lead, using Theo Duplechain and London Amorin to track Fernandez. Duplechain, a 6-3 junior, hustled for 14 points and 10 boards in the first half, but went to the bench with his third foul with 1:26 left.
Kalaheo then went on an 11-6 run to take the lead just before intermission. The Mustangs took command in the third quarter, limiting the Navigators to just four points. Kona Makaula hit three baseline jumpers to trigger the run.
“Kona did great just by hitting shots and playing (defense on) their best guy,” Kalaheo coach Chico Furtado said.
Duplechain finished with 20 points and Jackson Durrett had 12 off the bench, all on 3-pointers.
Furtado was much happier about the second half, when his team dropped the fullcourt press and shackled IPA.
“I told my guys, ‘Twenty-eight points in the first half, that’s not bad for us. Defensively, we can’t give that team 28 points.’ “
IPA coach Joe Payongayong said his team will have Wednedsay off, but will be back to work on Thursday. Their regular-season opener is on Saturday at Saint Louis (Division II).
“The maturity level is up from last year. I always tell our guys, ‘It’s how you play in February, not December.’ We’ve got things to work on: turnovers, little mistakes like not blocking out on free throws,” he said.
Payongayong initially wanted to use a triangle-and-two defense.
“The kids said, ‘No, no box.’ I trust in them and we went with the box,” he said.
Fernandez, a 6-3 senior who already has a single-game high of 41 points this winter, hit just three of his first 10 shots from the field. However, he helped his team in many other ways and totaled 11 rebounds, six steals and two blocks.
He finished 6-for-16 from the field.
Duplechain had just one rebound and six points in the second half. He finished with 16 points and 11 boards.