Solid Teamwork Yields Wins For Kapolei

The Kapolei team that basketball fans had been waiting to see all preseason showed itself just in time for the new year. Indeed, with wins of five of their last six preseason games to close out 2012, the Hurricanes have looked every bit the team that battled Kahuku for the OIA title last February.

“We started off rocky, but we’ve been playing more as a team of late,” said head coach Gary Ellison. “The kids had to go back and realize why they had success last year. They understand that they have to do it together more now instead of as individuals. Winning five of the last six was a plus, and we think we saw everything. We played all of the best teams in the state (over the past six weeks); we played a team from China, and we got to play a few Mainland teams. It was the toughest preseason we ever had.”

For three straight weeks, the team was in tournaments – Moanalua, Iolani Classic and Merv Lopes – and had to play multiple games over as many days.

“We played three in a row, then four in a row and four more in a row,” Ellison noted. “When you get late into the playoffs and state tournament, you usually will play four in a row. Hopefully, we’ll understand what it takes to make the final day if we get there.”

Wins over Kahuku and Tsinghua at the Iolani Classic were the highlight. The Hurricanes also posted wins over Saint Louis, Kamehameha-Hawaii and Saint Francis a week later at the Merv Lopes tourney. A 59-49 loss to Foothill High (Nevada) in the title game was Kapolei’s only loss over the last two weeks of preseason.

The Hurricanes went 18-4 overall last season (13-2 against OIA competition), in addition to making an appearance in the Division I state tournament. Ellison welcomed back nine players for 2012-13, giving him one of the most seasoned teams in the state. The lone starter not to return was Josh Farias, who completed his eligibility.

Starters Chris Dillard, Zach Reeves, Curtis Tavares and Joshua Wills all are back, as well as teammates Dorien Antonio Martos, Elia McKeague, Kula Seno, Kaeo Soares and Michael Kapoi.

The 6-4 Dillard is on pace to have a monster year, according to his coach. “Right now, Christopher has really been playing well,” Ellison said of Dillard, who is averaging 14 points per game over his last four outings. “Zach also had been playing really well of late until he had to have surgery on his nose. Elijah Gipson has been playing really well, and so have Elia and Curtis, of course.”

Kapolei was to open its OIA Red West schedule last weekend with matchups against Mililani and Nanakuli before turning its attention to this Wednesday’s road game at Radford.

“Radford is always a tough team. We have to play really tough defense against them. They’re very quick, and they have good shooters. They’re a really quick team overall. They match up with our guards well.”

Defense has been its forte. Five of its last seven opponents were held to under 40 points. “We’ve learned a lot over the past few weeks, and we were able to correct some things we were having trouble with. I think we’re much better defensively as we start the season,” Ellison said.

On the heels of Wednesday’s road date with Radford, Kapolei will return to host Waialua Friday night. Tip-off for both games is set for 7 p.m.