Kahuku Red Raiders riding the OIA hoops roller coaster

Photo courtesy of Sharlene Cravens

The agony and ecstasy of coaches throughout the OIA and ILH is as rollicking as ever.

Kahuku is one of many examples. The Red Raiders were ranked No. 10 in the Star-Advertiser boys basketball poll just three weeks ago after wins over Waiakea, Kauai and Mililani over a two-week span.

Their first landing in the top 10 was followed by OIA East losses to Kailua (58-52), Kaiser (45-43) and Farrington (57-54). At 0-3, the Red Raiders decided not to panic.

With Ethan Erickson and Marcus Damuni powering the inside game, Kahuku has won its last three, including crucial wins over Kalani (54-50) and Roosevelt (50-47).

That ability to win close games is a sea change for the Red Raiders.

“We’re starting to come along. Guys are getting in shape and it’s not how you start, but how you finish,” Kahuku coach Brandyn Akana said after the win at Roosevelt. “And we’ve got five more (OIA East) games left.”

The ladder to the top of the OIA East is crowded. Kailua (6-1) and Moanalua (6-1) share first place and Kalani (5-2) is in the thick of the chase. With wins over Kalani and Kalaheo (3-4), Kahuku has the head-to-head tiebreaker edge if it can keep winning and Kalani drops at least one of its last four games.

Catching the two front-runners is a big ask at this point. The top two teams in the East will earn first-round byes in the Division I playoffs. With a reduction from six to five state-tournament berths in D-I — largely because St. Francis moved up to D-I in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu and gave the league a third berth — every possible advantage is more valuable than ever in the OIA.

It also means this: a team that wins in the opening round and loses in the ensuing quarterfinal round will have to win the following two games. The fifth-place game used to be for mostly cosmetic reasons. Now a state berth is on the line at the lower end of the bracket when it comes to boys hoops.

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Kahuku Red Raiders riding the OIA hoops roller coaster

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