Six is better than five, and five is certainly better than four.
When Kamehameha took the court on Tuesday morning against Kalaheo, it was an unusual scenario. The Warriors warmed up with just six players, all underclassmen. There were 5 minutes left in warmup time for the 10:30 a.m. consolation game at the ‘Iolani Prep Classic, but at least Kamehameha was there. There was no sight of Kalaheo.
The Mustangs arrived a minute later, and officials allowed them an extra few minutes to get ready. Kalaheo is in finals week, so squeezing in a game at the Classic in the morning of a school day was tough. Kamehameha could emphathize. Their seniors were at the school’s annual Founder’s Day festivities.
So they played and the Warriors eked out a 55-46 win. Sophomore Christmas Togiai gave coach Greg Tacon an early present with 12 points and 32 minutes played. Yes, he played every minute. Junior Hoku Arias scored 15 points and Braden DeFries added 13.
“I can’t tell you how happy and proud I am. This is one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve ever had as a coach,” Tacon said. “They did things correctly.”
Tacon’s baby bruisers, sophomores Bailey Lee and Micah Soliai-Howlett, played major minutes. So did junior Lokahi Pauole, whose smile was infectious. Talk about a big man — and stellar football lineman — emoting the joy of the holiday season. If you offer him 28 minutes of playing time or a gift card to GameStop, hmm… he probably will never forget this game: 11 points, 3-for-4 at the free-throw line. Two of those foul shots came in the late going while the Warriors clung to a small lead.
In this way, Kamehameha’s 6-shooters had an advantage: Kalaheo’s key players put in a lot of minutes the day before, and also played over the weekend in the opening round. Most of Kamehameha’s players in this game still had fresh legs, and maybe more importantly, they were excited at the prospect of big minutes. It showed on the court.
So, yes, maybe Kamehameha’s reserve underclassmen would be good enough to compete for first place in the OIA East, but they were in a sweet-spot opportunity and made the most of it.
Less than 24 hours later, Rob Pardini’s Kalaheo squad had a 9 a.m. tip-off against Pearl City. The Mustangs were in the Warriors’ shoes now, suiting up just six players due to finals on campus. The Chargers rallied for a 48-45 win against a tired Mustangs team. Shots that normally fell for Kalaheo were way off by the fourth quarter. Three games in three days is a tournament thing, not a regular-season format. And it’s not normally going to work for a lineup of six ballers, no matter how good they may be.
“They were excited to get their minutes, especially the two young sophomores,” Pardini said, referring to Kanoa Smith (nine points) and Caleb Carter (five). “I like playing with six when we’re not in foul trouble. It’s nice because you can rotate every two or three minutes. You know it’s a conditioning thing at this point since we’re not practicing.”
With that, the Mustangs departed ‘Iolani and went back to life as it exists five days before Christmas. Pardini had the typical husband/dad goals that aren’t easy to reach during a busy holiday hoops season.
“I’m going shopping right now. My wife’s birthday is on the 23rd,” he said.