Smith’s Mustangs Coalesce

The Kalaheo boys basketball team saved its biggest effort for its biggest games at the recent Live-Run Bigfoot Hoops Tournament in Las Vegas – which resulted in the Mustangs winning the 17-and-under Division.

“To be honest, we didn’t play very well in the first half of our first game,” head coach Alika Smith said. “I think we were down 20 points, but in every half after that, we outplayed the other team. We really saw the effort and intensity come out. It ended up being a total team effort.”

Although Kalaheo had dropped games in pool play, it went undefeated when it got to the single-elimination championship round, defeating the Pasadena All-Stars, the Montana All-Stars and the Valencia All-Star team in the title game. The achievement is made more impressive in that the bulk of the field was comprised of all-star teams.

“There were very few high school teams,” Smith said, “90 percent were all-star teams.”

It has been quite a year so far. The Mustangs won the Division II state championship in February, while their trip to Las Vegas was to improve team unity and to play against stellar competition, according to Smith.

“Winning and losing were secondary to them being together,” he said. “Playing together was what we wanted to see, and their cohesiveness showed. They played so hard and found their groove. I’m very, very proud of them.”

As for the level of competition, Smith was not disappointed. “No offense to the teams here, but the intensity we saw exceeded anything we’ve seen in the last two years. It took us awhile to adjust, but the kids ended up fitting right in and competing. We finally made some shots in the semifinals and the finals.”

Kalaheo connected on nine 3-pointers in the semi-final win over Montana and added 13 in the title game versus Valencia. Senior-to-be Josh Ko had five 3-pointers and a game-high 28 points to help drive the team across the finish line in the title game.

The Mustangs had overcome a big deficit in their semifinal win before coming back and did much of the damage without Ko and Derick Morgan, both of whom battled foul trouble. “The others picked it up, and that’s all you can ask,” said Smith. “Everyone on the team played well.”

Shem Sukumaran, Silia Tucker, Anthony Rowan, Kalani Green, Kurt Vegas, Kalei Zuttermeister and Smith’s 12-year-old son, Jalen, rounded out the roster along with Ko and Morgan. Jalen Smith scored in the title game, much to his father’s delight.

“He’s 5-8 now, but the doctor says he is going to be 6-5 or 6-6 like my dad (the late coach Pete Smith),” said Alika.

Kalaheo is being promoted to Division I for next season.