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Red Raiders Facing Critical Games V. Kalaheo, Farrington

With one of the younger rosters in the OIA, Kahuku certainly qualified as a mystery team at the beginning of boys basketball season.

Two months later, the talented Red Raiders are still a bit of a mystery to their coach, Darren Johnson.

“I’m not always sure which team is going to show up — the one that plays (well) or the one that makes mistakes,” said Johnson. “We’ve had distractions, but the kids are definitely improving and trying hard. We have 10 playing, and they’re all showing major progress. We hope to play our best basketball in the post-season.”

This week will be akin to the playoffs, as they close out their season against Red East leaders Kalaheo (Thursday at home) and Farrington (Saturday at Moanalua High). Kahuku was two games behind both teams in the standings at press time, so the outcomes should have a huge impact on the Red East race. Also at stake are the top two seeds and first-round byes for next week’s OIA tournament.

“We’re still in a good position,” Johnson said, “but we definitely have to get on the horse and get going in the right direction. “Kalaheo and Farrington are both very good teams, who are very, very well-coached. They both play baseline to baseline and sideline to sideline.”

Johnson had special praise for the play of senior Hirkley Latu and juniors Soli Afalava and Chance Maghanoy.

“Hirkley has been making some good plays,” he said of Latu, who is averaging 13 points per game in league play. “Soli is a hard-nosed kid. He’s a player who has shown tremendous progress. Chance has been coming into his own lately.

All of the younger kids have been stepping up and playing better. We have three freshmen who are playing at a high level and three seniors who are starting to understand their role with the team.”

Accelerating team growth was a theme last week as they prepared for their upcoming games with so many young players. “We have to mature and get the youth out of us. We have to play with high intensity from the tip-off to the ending of the game. We’re striving for positive progression.”

The outcome of Kahuku’s game Tuesday with Roosevelt also was likely to figure big. Like Kahuku, the Rough Riders were 3-3 at press time, and were the only league team to beat Kalaheo to date. Kalaheo entered the weekend tied for first with Farrington and Moanalua. Farrington’s only loss so far was to Kalaheo, which is attempting to capture a third straight state title — having won the DII and DI title each of the last two years, respectively. Kahuku’s game with Farrington Saturday will be televised live by OC-16. Tip-off is set for 5 p.m.