Defense lifts No. 1 Kahuku past McKinley, 63-36
Kahuku's Kesi Ah-Hoy prepares to pass the ball against the McKinley Tigers in the second half Tuesday night. Michael Lasquero | SL
Kesi Ah-Hoy and Codie Sauvao play defense on the basketball court with the same intensity as they do on the football field.
Of course, it was the usual suspects – Jessiya Villa and Daniel Fotu – combining for 33 points and No. 1 Kahuku blitzed McKinley, 63-36, Tuesday night at the Student Council Gymnasium.
But it was the defense, led by Ah-Hoy and Sauvau, who combined for 12 rebounds, four steals and a block to help keep the Red Raiders the only undefeated team in the Oahu Interscholastic Association Division I East at 8-0 and 17-3 overall. Their ninth consecutive win overall handed the Tigers (10-7, 7-1) their first loss in league play.
"That's something we've been working on all year long is our defense," Kahuku coach Brandyn Akana said. "Every timeout, every hafltime, we keep challenging them. It's defense. That's what we do, that's who we are. Fortunately, all of these guys do a good job of defense."
Ah-Hoy, an All-Hawaii safety in football, takes pride in providing his basketball team with hard play on defense, which pressed the Tigers all night.
"I know my weaknesses, I know my role on the team," Ah-Hoy said. "My role on the team is to play defense and hustle and get the ball to the scorers."
Ah-Hoy had 10 rebounds, two steals and assisted on a score on one of his takeways to go along with his nine points, including a 3-pointer. Sauvao had two defensive rebounds, two steals and a block. He had six points.
Ah-Hoy and Sauvao also will play in Saturday night's Polynesian Bowl at Aloha Stadium. Since the Bowl has activities for the players throughout the week, it is not known if the two will play in the Red Raiders' game against Roosevelt on Thursday.
Fotu and Villa weren't exactly slouches on defense either. Fotu grabbed nine rebounds, two of them putbacks. Villa had three defensive boards and a steal. Villa finished with 17 points and Fotu with 16.
Kevin Kim, who led all scorers with 19 points, including three 3-pointers, opened the scoring with a dribble drive to the hoop. It was a short-lived lead for the Tigers, as the Red Raiders went on a 16-2 run to take a 16-4 lead into the second period.
Kahuku extended its lead to 22-6 before the Tigers ended the half with an 11-2 run to close to 25-17 at the break.
McKinley opened the scoring in the second half before time even ran off. Kim hit 1 of 2 free throws from a technical foul at the end of the first half.
Still, Kahuku managed to widen the gap despite Kim's six third-quarter points, as Kahuku made it 41-27 entering the fourth.
Kahuku started the fourth with a 15-0 run. The Tigers finally stopped the bleeding with 3:24 left when Kim converted a three-point play. By this time, Kahuku started subbing its starters, as did McKinley.
Aside from Kim, 6-foot-5 post Mark Burke had a nice game for the Tigers. Being the only one who could match up with Kahuku's length, he had five blocks, two rebounds and a steal to go along with his four points.
The Red Raiders' league wins have all been by double-digit margins. Yet, there does not seem to be a slip in effort.
"Our whole thing is we have to keep being hungry," Akana said. "Some of the games we've played maybe were not what we wanted it to be. But I think it's ourselves. Through practice, we talk about it's ourselves we need to worry about. We have to get better and defensive has been our call all season."