Timely 3s lift Kahuku over KS-Hawaii
Kahuku's starters got some time to rest on the bench in a blowout win over Kamehameha-Hawaii in the quarterfinals of the state tournament. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell/Star-Advertiser.
It probably would’ve been a 35-point night for Tolu Smith, who had 17 points by halftime in Kahuku’s 62-37 win over Kamehameha-Hawaii on Wednesday.
Smith saw sparse minutes in the third quarter before departing for good with 2:24 left in that period and the Red Raiders ahead 41-18. With the semifinal round, a matchup with top-seeded Maryknoll, up next on Thursday night at Stan Sheriff Center, Kahuku wisely gave their starters significant rest time.
Smith was blanketed by Warrior defenders, but his immense basketball IQ was in play. He pivoted away from double teams, got easy buckets using either hand inside 6 feet of the basket. When the coverage on the block was air-tight, he found open teammates, and the Red Raiders were ready. Not perfect, but ready.
Ruanui Winitana was diligent, splashing a couple of 3s to start the second quarter as Kahuku turned a 10-all game into a 27-16 halftime lead. He had missed his first two 3-point tries, but never wavered.
“Coach said, ‘Shoot it. Don’t lose confidence,’ “ the transfer from New Zealand said.
By game’s end, Kahuku’s reserves showed their long-distance precision. The Red Raiders finished 7-for-18 from the arc.
Kahuku (25-4 overall including nonconference games) also won the battle on defense, using what appeared to be a Virginia-style pack-line wall behind Smith when he covered KS-Hawaii’s dangerous 6-5 scorer, Nalu Kahapea. The normally crafty senior saw the pack line and hesitated every time. He finished with 17 points, but had just nine points through three quarters, and did the rest of his damage against Kahuku’s reserves.
“That was the byproduct of our lack of ball movement,” Warriors coach Mea Wong said. “We drilled all week for this.”
Kahuku’s height, length, physicality and athleticism, Wong noted, were not easily duplicated at practice. KS-Hawaii (22-4) went unbeaten in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation, which was relatively young at the highest level, and hasn’t been quite as powerful overall as a league in some years.
The difference between a Kahuku, which saw all kinds of defenses in the OIA, and the lack of challenges for KS-Hawaii in the BIIF, was significant. It didn’t help the Warriors that the Red Raiders were coming off an upset loss in the OIA final last week to Kalaheo.
Now the Red Raiders get their shot at Maryknoll, the top seed. The teams didn’t meet during the season, but Kahuku nearly beat Punahou, losing 50-48, in December. Punahou finished second to Maryknoll in the ILH, beating the Spartans in last week’s league tournament final. Maryknoll went on to win the league championship one day later.
The Kahuku-Maryknoll game will tip off 5 p.m. at Stan Sheriff Center.