Smith powers No. 6 Kahuku past McKinley
Tolu Smith (1) scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half to lead the Red Raiders to victory Monday evening. Greg Yamamoto | SL
KAKAAKO — Tolu Smith scored 17 of his team-high 19 points after halftime to lead No. 6 Kahuku to a 56-40 win over McKinley in the semifinals of the Oahu Interscholastic Association Division I boys basketball tournament Monday night.
The Red Raiders (12-0) will look to defend their league title Wednesday, when they face unranked Kalaheo at 7 p.m. at McKinley's Student Council Gymnasium in the championship game.
The Tigers (8-5) had their six-game win streak snapped.
Smith, a 6-foot-10 senior center, overcame a slight knee injury in the first half that limited him to one field goal before the intermission. However, he poured in nine points in the third quarter — when Kahuku outscored McKinley, 17-10 — and added four more in the fourth.
"It was my (athletic) trainer, honestly," Smith said when asked what spurred his second-half surge.
"I went through a little injury in the first, so I had to overcome that and he helped me," Smith said. "He put some icy hot on there and it helped me. It was hurting early on."
The Tigers operated at a methodical pace on offense and drew the 6-foot-10 Smith farther out defensively than he is accustomed to while defending the much-shorter Frank Camacho.
It worked early on, as McKinley jumped out to a 7-0 lead. Kahuku did not score until nearly midway through the opening quarter, on a Marcus Damuni lay-in. Later in the first, Damuni scored a putback on the offensive glass to cut the Tigers' lead to 8-6.
Just before the end of the first quarter, Lokana Enos drew a costly foul on McKinley's Yashu Lanki. Enos threw up a desperation heave from near mid-court, but was fouled with 0.5 seconds left on the clock.
Enos consequently hit all three from the stripe and gave the Red Raiders their first lead.
"That was big, because that's momentum and we were looking for that spark," Kahuku coach Brandyn Akana said. "I think he and Sol-Jay (Maiava) both gave us sparks coming off the bench and they played great defense and they took care of the ball on offense."
McKinley pull back ahead on a 17-foot banker by Camacho with 3:09 to play in the first half, but Enos converted a three-point play on the other end to give his team the lead for good.
"We got a little impatient early on in the first half. I think our big guys got impatient, kind of antsy, which kind of took us out of our game, but I think after the halftime and we kind of settled them down," Akana said. "The second quarter was much better. We got up and then I think the rest of the second half we just settled down and played our game, that's it."
Kahuku led at halftime, 20-16, and extended that lead to 37-26 after three quarters. They closed out the third quarter with an 8-0 run that included six second-chance points.
In all, the Red Raiders grabbed 13 offensive rebounds, which led to 23 second-chance points.
Smith said it was a matter of being more aggressive.
"We had to come out a lot stronger and a lot harder. We were lolly-gagging the whole first half," Smith said.
"That's what got us here and that's our strength and we've been doing it all year, and to see the big guys go to work and get some production in the paint, that's key for us," he said.
Conversely, the height disparity was too much to overcome for the Tigers.
"I think for three quarters we played tough, but the hard part is, if we don't have a lead against them, it's hard to spread the court with them, so when we couldn't get the lead it was hard to control the pace of the game and then their height kind of takes over, but for the most part, our kids played tough. The height just kind of hurt us a lot, especially the backside rebounding," McKinley coach Duane Omori said.
Enos scored all nine of his points in the first half and Ethan Erickson had all eight of his points in the second.
Kyle Moraga shot 9 of 12 from the free-throw line and finished with 19 points to lead McKinley.
It was the second meeting between the teams this season. Kahuku held off McKinley, 48-45, in the regular season on Dec. 28.
The Red Raiders are seeking their eighth OIA crown. They can become the first team to win back-to-back league titles since the 2014-'15 seasons, when Farrington (Division I) and Kaiser (D2) both repeated as champions.