Third-ranked ‘Iolani and No. 1 Punahou have quite a history together.
When the two boys basketball powerhouses clash tonight (6:30 p.m.) at Hemmeter Fieldhouse, there will be many Raiders and Buffanblu who have experienced the more recent battles. ‘Iolani has won four of the last six against Punahou, its arch rival.
On paper: Punahou is soaring right now, meshing and blending since a loss to nonconference loss to Kamehameha in early December. At 13-1 (3-0 Interscholastic League of Honolulu), the Buffanblu have several weapons, lots of size and a new coach (Alika Smith) who encourages them to push the ball upcourt.
‘Iolani doesn’t match up as well underneath, particularly with Kainoa Scheer sidelined again by a meniscus injury. The Raiders (10-6, 3-1) do well against Punahou when the tempo is moderate. Three of their last four wins against Punahou came with the score in the 40s. Both of Punahou’s wins in the past two seasons came with the score in the 50s or higher.
The skinny: Punahou can count on guard Taylor Crabb for offensive production. Malik Johnson (6-foot-5) and DeForest Buckner (6-7) are potential double-double posts on any given night. Buckner had 13 points and 23 boards in a win at Kamehameha.
‘Iolani relies on guard Kainoa Chu to spark the offense, but it’s the swarming defense that sets the tone. The Raiders will go man defense or 1-3-1 zone, extending fullcourt when necessary to maximize their quickness. That hasn’t changed one iota, that aggressive defense, under first-year head coach Dean Shimamoto.
X factor: Punahou has experience and depth in the backcourt with James Dowsett and Henry Cassiday, the latter showing more potential as a defensive stopper lately. Cassiday covered 6-5 Micah Christenson in the final minute of a close win over Kamehameha. Cassiday might be a factor if he’s assigned to cover Chu, who does a good job of recognizing defenses and drawing fouls when his 3-point shot isn’t open.
What Punahou hasn’t seen yet this season is whether ‘Iolani’s Trevyn Tulonghari has his outside shot back. The junior swingman has rebounded fairly well, but hasn’t found his perimeter stroke since returning from a long football season. That could change soon enough.
— Paul Honda