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Mustangs Hosting Pete Smith Classic Tourney This Week

For all the scorers in the Kalaheo lineup, head basketball coach Alika Smith is proud to report that defense is the Mustangs’ forte six weeks into the 2014-15 campaign.

“Our work ethic and our intensity on defense are what have surprised me most,” said Smith, whose team was to begin play Tuesday in the Pete Smith Classic against Anuenue. “We’re trying to hang our hat on that. At the same time, it’s a learning process for those kids who don’t know our system yet, but they’re all working hard and doing what they need to do to get better.

We’ve come a long way since our first team meeting.”

The Mustangs are yielding 44 points per game on the defensive end, four games into preseason.

As in past years, this is a busy period for Kalaheo, which appeared in the McKinley Black and Gold Classic earlier in the month. Last Thursday and through the weekend, the Mustangs were on Maui for the Baldwin tournament. This week, they host the Pete Smith Classic, with an appearance in the Punahou tournament to follow over the holidays.

Kalaheo’s OIA East season opener is set for Jan. 3 against Kaimuki.

“We try to put them in every situation possible to grow — whether it’s playing on the road or against great teams we’ll see down the road (in the post-season),” said Smith.

The starting lineup of late includes Kupaa Harrison, Captain Whitlock, Kaleb Gilmore, and Kekai and Jalen Smith. Harrison, a senior, averaged 18.4 points per game last season in leading the team to an 11-3 mark in the OIA Red East, but he has been slowed by an ankle sprain that caused him to miss three games. He was questionable for Kalaheo’s late game with Maryknoll in the Baldwin tournament on Thursday, according to Smith, but is probable for this week’s Pete Smith Classic.

As expected, Gilmore has had a big impact since transferring from Mary-knoll, highlighted by his spectacular 29-point performance in a recent 60-48 win over Campbell. Gilmore also converted six 3-pointers in the game.

“When you have someone as talented as Kupaa, Kaleb or Kekai, their experience in the big games helps our younger kids,” Smith explained. “Overall, we’ve been very unselfish as a team. All the kids bring a unique something to the floor, and they’re getting better at rounding out their games.”

Senior Alec MacLeod has been filling in for Harrison in the starting lineup. The roster also features Zach Marrotte, Andrew Kearney, Kekoa Thompson, Alex Layi, Ashton Arnold and Ja-Andre Lamar.

The 16-team Pete Smith Classic offers games every day this week through Saturday with morning sessions (beginning at 9:30 a.m. through to 2 p.m.) in addition to the evening session (3:30 to 8:30 p.m.). Saturday’s championship game will be played at 8 p.m. Kalaheo’s opponent for Thursday was to be determined by the results of its first-round game with Anuenue Tuesday.

In addition to host Kalaheo, Castle also will take part from the Windward side. The Knights play Punahou at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday in their first-round game. The field includes Konawaena, McKinley, Campbell, Leilehua, Damien, Farrington, Kamehameha II, Mililani and three teams from Canada (Fleetwood Park, Southern Okanagan and Terry Fox), in addition to Anuenue and Punahou.