Mustangs Up For State Hoops

History has a way of repeating itself, which is a comforting thought for the Kalaheo basketball team as it begins play in the Division

I boys state tournament this Wednesday to Saturday.

No team from the OIA has left a bigger mark on that tournament than the Mustangs over the long haul. Kalaheo, after all, has five state titles to its credit to date – in 1985, 1995, 2001, 2012 and 2013. And it’s also been state runner-up six times (1991, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2002 and 2004).

The greater chore now is to put last week’s OIA tournament in the rear-view mirror. A heart-breaking last-minute loss to Campbell in the semifinals undermined momentum and turned away a bid for the league title.

A clean slate awaits the Mustangs this week, however. (Pairings were to be released after press time.) State action Wednesday and Thursday will be at McKinley, with semifinals and finals Friday and Saturday at Blaisdell Arena. A look at the Mustangs is below.

Tracking Kalaheo Record: 24-8 overall, including preseason games, 10-3 overall for the season, including OIA tournament, 10-1 in OIA East

Key wins: Over Walnut Grove 66-60 Dec. 19, over Moanalua 52-48 Jan. 2, over Kailua 56-37 Jan. 10, over Farrington 58-54 Jan. 17

Did you know?: Kalaheo has a 4-1 record in games decided by four points or less.

Mustangs at a glance: Fans who thought this would be a rebuilding year quickly found out otherwise, as the Mustangs have been more in re-group mode after heavy losses to graduation left them with a largely unproven roster. Head coach Alika Smith and the team have merely picked up where they left off following last year’s Division I state title run (which marked their second straight state championship after winning the DII title the year before). At the forefront of its success has been the steady play of junior Kupaa Harrison. His leadership has figured big for a team that was considered young and inexperienced. Harrison is currently averaging 18.7 points per game, but even his statistics don’t reveal his full contributions to this team, as his defensive play and maturity have been equally huge.

Above all, he plays his best in big games, as the rest of the OIA has found out. His 30-point showing last week versus Campbell in the OIA tourney semifinals was his highest scoring season total, and he had averaged 23 points per game over his last four outings, heading into the OIA’s third-place game late last week.

The key, however, is tied to the play of his supporting cast: up-and-comers Kekai Smith (12.8 points per game, 12 three-pointers) and Zach Marrotte (7.1 ppg). With every opponent making Harrison the focal point of their defensive efforts, the play of both Smith and Marrotte will be big for the Mustangs this week as they pursue a third straight state title.