Height is might in basketball — most of the time.
Then there’s ‘Iolani. Not the boys, who have plenty of height, starting with 6-foot-9 Hugh Hogland.
The girls? Their only losses so far have been to nationally ranked powerhouses and the No. 1 team in the islands: Archbishop Mitty (Calif.) (No. 2 by USA Today), Long Beach Poly (Calif.) (No. 14) and Maryknoll, the top-ranked team in the Star-Advertiser Top 10.
The rest of the time, they keep making clutch plays on defense, look for great shots instead of average ones, and that persistence is making all the difference. In their 51-42 win at Punahou on Thursday, the Raiders (9-4, 4-2 ILH) showed why height is just one aspect of roundball.
They not only kept up with the taller Buffanblu on the boards (26-26), they had 11 offensive boards to Punahou’s two. That’s six extra possessions by sheer hustle. Those were handy on a night when ‘Iolani was worn down a bit from finals at school, five games in a seven-day span, and packing. The Raiders are heading to the Nike Tournament of Champions in Phoenix, Ariz. with a flight on Friday. They begin tourney play on Monday.
Hustle and bustle during Christmas season, for sure.
That extra attention to details – their man defense limited Punahou to 37-percent field-goal shooting — will be needed at all times, not just during the ‘Iolani Classic or Tournament of Champions. Here’s what the numbers look like in the “Height” column of their roster:
The Raiders have been one of the best 3-point shooting teams statewide for many seasons — “We tried to take away their threes,” Punahou coach Liz Kam said — but they’re not as dependent on the long ball now. They were just 4-for-15 from deep against Punahou, but their weaving, dribble-drive five-out attack gets better and better with each game. It is a nightmare for tiring opponents, chasing all five Raiders on that end of the court. There is no stoppage, no rest for the Raiders, either.
Coach Dean Young goes nine to 10 deep — there are 10 players on the roster — and he continues to preach the rewards of great defense and smart offensive decisions. The Raiders limited Punahou’s explosive scorer, Kamaile Kandiah, to nine points. Kandiah didn’t score in the second half.
“Tory (Maeda) and Kawai (Kahalehoe) were tasked to cover Kamaile. It’s hard to beat constant pressure, no matter how good you are,” Young said of Kandiah, who scored 13 of her 24 points in the fourth quarter against Maryknoll last week. “And Skylar (Nakata) stepped up. Abigail (Aplaca) is a tough matchup.”
Camy Aguinaldo (18 points) was a blur on the fastbreak again, and Nakata was clutch with 12 points, including a corner 3 on a pass from Kahalehoe that opened the lead to 46-38 with 2:36 remaining.
“We cut down on our turnovers and got more confident in our shots,” Nakata said of ‘Iolani’s second-half run, which finally put the Raiders ahead after trailing 10-0 and 25-14. “We helped a lot on their drives. We stepped up on defense.”
By then, Maeda and Kahalehoe were still taking turns smothering Kandiah, who didn’t take a shot in the final quarter.
“It’s definitely tiring,” said Maeda, who scored just one point with three assists, but got a gold star for her defensive effort. “Kamaile is always running off of screens and she knows how to get open. She’s so good, she can get whatever she wants.”
The Raiders shot 40 percent from the field (21-for-52), including 4-for-15 from the arc. They were 5-for-11 at the charity stripe, but battled Punahou on the boards evenly (26-26) and had an 11-5 edge in offensive rebounds.
The Buffanblu shot 37 percent from the field (15-for-41), including 5-for-10 from the arc. Punahou was 7-for-10 from the foul line.
‘Iolani committed just seven turnovers. Punahou finished with 13.