Windward Triumph Possible At State Basketball Tourney

The final test for the Kailua and Kalaheo basketball teams has arrived, as both will be in the state tournament Tuesday-Saturday this week. Pairings were to be revealed Feb. 17. Kailua will compete in the DII tournament, while Kalaheo will take part in D I play, having been promoted after claiming last year’s DII title. A look at their prospects is below.

Kailua High

Record: 14-8 overall, 6-5 versus OIA schools, heading into last weekend

What’s next: The DII tournament

How they got here: The team beat four DI teams to earn the top seed out of the East for the OIA White conference tourney. A triple-overtime win over Kaiser last week lifted Kailua into the OIA DII title game over the weekend and guaranteed it a berth at states.

Key wins: Over Kahuku (47-45) Jan. 5; over Kaimuki (47-29) Jan. 11; over Roosevelt (58-51) Jan. 16; over Farrington (48-37) Jan. 25

Players to watch: Kirk Ronolo Jr. (third leading White scorer at 14.2 points per game), Kekoa Ford (10.9), Mason Youart (5.7), Noah Auld and Cason Kalei

What to watch: Kailua is making its first state tournament appearance in three years. The past two were memorable, as it took the DII state title in 2009 and was 2010 runner-up. Recent history indicates a strong run by Kailua this week. Indeed, in five of the first six Division II state tournaments held since 2007, an OIA East team has won. The Surfriders will rely largely on defense this week, as they have held seven of their last nine opponents to under 42 points. Dating back to the end of December, Kailua guard Ronolo has reached double figures in scoring in all but two games. Head coach Walter Marciel is in his first season after a successful stint at Academy of the Pacific. He also was a longtime assistant at Kalaheo. Marciel succeeded Tim Harrison, who is now an assistant on Alika Smith’s Mustang basketball staff.

Kalaheo High

Record: 24-4 overall, 11-0 in OIA games, heading into last weekend

What’s next: The DI state tournament

How they got here: The Mustangs’ win streak was at 14 and counting entering the weekend, as they hadn’t lost since their final pre-season game to Punahou in late December. Kalaheo was to play Moanalua for the OIA DI title over the weekend.

Key wins: Over Moanalua (41-40) Jan. 5; over Kahuku (51-40 on the road) Jan. 26; over Campbell (52-37) Feb. 9; over Farrington (55-49) Feb. 13 Players to watch: Kalei Zuttermeister (10.6 points per game), Derick Morgan (10.3), Josh Ko (9.5), Shem Sukumaran (6.7), Alex MacLeod (6.0)

What to watch: The Mustangs are trying to be the first OIA boys basketball team to win state titles in back-to-back years in separate divisions. After taking last year’s title, they have transitioned to DI in dominating fashion and were still unbeaten prior to last Saturday night’s Moanalua game. They maintained momentum from last season in part by going as a team to Las Vegas in July, where they captured the Live-Run Bigfoot Hoops Tournament. In veterans Zuttermeister, Morgan, Ko, Sukumaran, MacLeod and Silila Tucker, they have arguably the most-seasoned roster of any team at states. Zuttermeister has been especially hitting his stride, averaging 15.2 points over his last three outings. Defense has been the team forte throughout, as it has not let an opponent break the 50-point plateau all season. Offensively, it’s at its best when it is making good on perimeter shots. The Mustangs had converted 72 three-pointers heading into the weekend.