Kalaheo And Kahuku Basketball By The Numbers
For both the Kalaheo and Kahuku boys’ basketball teams, this week’s Hawaiian Airlines State Basketball Tournament represents the ultimate opportunity to send their respective teams out the right way. A look at each team’s post-season resume follows. Kalaheo will be competing in the Division II Tournament, while Kahuku is in Division I this season. (Pairings for the both the DII and DI Tournaments were to be revealed late Sunday after press time.)
Record: 24-6 overall (including pre-season games) 10-1 in games against Oahu Interscholastic Association foes
Head Coach: Alika Smith (second season at Kalaheo)
Signature Wins: Kamehameha (48-45 at the Merv Lopes Tournament Sept. 28), Kahuku (45-32 at the Merv Lopes Tournament Dec. 30), Moanalua (31-29 on the road Jan. 26), Farrington (43-27 Feb. 1), Farrington 53-46 Feb. 14)
What to Watch This Week: The Mustangs have been on a steady climb since the last month of the 2010-11 campaign and saw their hard work pay huge dividends to this point during the current season. Kalaheo last won a state title in 2001 under the late Pete Smith, and the Mustangs enter this week’s tournament with a good shot to add another banner to the crowded rafters of their gym. Kalaheo was to play McKinley in last Thursday’s DII OIA Championship game, but had already clinched a berth for this week with their semifinal win over Farrington last Tuesday. Given Kalaheo’s strong play against Division I teams this season (thanks to the OIA’s format of pairing DI and DII teams during the regular season), the Mustangs figure to be a confident bunch this week. It should also be comforting for Kalaheo to know that seven of the eight DII State Champions have come out of the OIA since the state divided schools into divisions. Kalaheo’s rotation centers around Josh Ko, Derick Morgan (7.2 ppg.), Nainoa Frank (9.1 ppg.), Shem Sukumaran, Jordan Reindollar and sixth-man Silila Tucker.
Kalaheo Fun Fact: The Mustangs are appearing in the State Tournament for the 21st time in the last 22 years.
Kalaheo’s “Glue Guy”: Josh Ko. On a team of leaders, he holds it all together with his solid play and his own leadership skills.
MVP: Any number of Mustangs could get the nod here, but we’ll give it to Frank, whose inside presence goes a long way toward providing the balance that makes Kalaheo tough to defend.
Record: 19-7 overall, including pre-season games (12-1 versus OIA foes)
Head Coach: Darren Johnson (second year)
Signature Wins: Kalaheo (48-41 Jan. 10), at Kalani (57-51 Jan. 12), at Farrington (72-58 Jan.14), Leilehua (64-49 in OIA Tourney), Moanalua (73-61 (in OIA Tourney Feb. 14).
What to Watch This Week: One of the Red Raiders’ greater challenges this season was to shake off the football hangover with 14 players having had to make the transition to basketball. A busy preseason schedule also limited practice time for the Red Raiders in making that transition, but the late start has perhaps secretly been a blessing, as Kahuku now finds itself playing its best basketball when it counts the most. Depth has played no small role for the Red Raiders, whose rotation features Evan Ramirez, Kawe Johnson, Mekeli Fiso, Mason Kuali’i-Moe and Sam Ching, among others. Kahuku was to play Kapolei in the DII Title game last Thursday. It was the Hurricanes who handed Kahuku its only loss in an OIA Championship round game days earlier. The Red Raiders had advanced to the title game with a win over defending OIA champ Moanalua last Tuesday, giving Kahuku a sweep of the season series over Na Menehune.
Kahuku Fun Fact: Dating back to preseason, the Red Raiders are 16-2 when scoring 50 points or more.
Kahuku’s “Glue Guys”: Mekeli Fiso and Evan Ramirez. Both have the athleticism and competitive flair that transfers over from being part of Kahuku’s elite football program.
MVP: Kawe Johnson. As on the football field, Johnson is plainly a go-to guy on the hardwood, as well. His 30-point scoring night on the road versus Farrington in January was only the beginning, as he entered last Thursday’s OIA Championship game having scored in double figures in seven of his last eight games. His defensive presence may be even more important to the Red Raiders’ play.