Mustang Basketball Triumph Built On Experienced Talent

Occasionally lost on Kalaheo’s long string of successes on the basketball court is that the school is more in line with a perennial underdog, enrollment wise.

Head coach Alika Smith is ever mindful of that, as a lifelong Kailua resident and former standout under his dad, Pete Smith, during his own playing days.

“We’re a small community, and that makes it more gratifying,” he said.

When the team captured the Division I state tournament Feb. 23, it set yet another standard, as it became the first program to win back-to-back OIA and state titles in different classes. The Mustangs took the DII state title last winter, as well as the DII OIA championship. As has become the March custom, school officials will now be ordering more banners to commemorate its latest accomplishments.

“I look up there (at the gym banners) a lot, and memories flash before my eyes,” admitted Smith. “We’re trying to make it so there’s not much room (for more banners).”

Graduation day will be bittersweet, however, as he will say goodbye to his 12-member senior class. The group is among the most decorated, too. The team went 17-0 this year alone.

“You have your ups and downs, but the resiliency these kids showed is something I haven’t seen as a coach,” Smith said. “We stress the family atmosphere, and our coaches had a great relationship with these kids. We had most of these kids for three years. We saw them grow up right before our eyes and not just in basketball.

“Seeing them work so hard and accomplish all of their goals, I’m a very happy man. It was a phenomenal run for our coaches and players.”

To start with so many returnees, the team was well ahead of many in that its schemes were in place. Kalaheo also flew to Las Vegas last July and won the Live-Run Bigfoot Hoops tourney for 17-and-under.

“Anytime you have a bunch of veterans, they know your system and they know what they have to give in practice every day,” Smith said. “This was a total team effort.”

The 2012-13 roster included Josh Ko, Shem Sukumaran, Alec Macleod, Kalei Zuttermeister, Kurt Vegas, Kalani Green, Derick Morgan, Silila Tucker, Kenny McFadden, Kupaa Harrison, Anthony Rowan, Michael Leong, Elijah Eriksson and Nainoa Frank. Smith also added Kekai Smith, Hano Kohatsu, Bryant Villarosa and Fao Atanoa for the post-season run. All four were on the JV team and are expected to play big roles next year.

Kalaheo has now won five state titles in boys basketball and 18 OIA titles.