LHS Mules Look To Seed High In Up­com­ing OIA Play­offs

MidWeek Islander (Central Oahu) - - Sports - By JACK DANILEWICZ

Fig­u­ra­tively speak­ing, as Leile­hua moves through its OIA Red West slate, the Mules def­i­nitely have their “guard up.”

That is all by de­sign, ac­cord­ing to boys bas­ket­ball coach Keith Spencer, whose back-court com­bi­na­tion of Dil­lon Pa‘ u and Brent Lemon re­mains one of the best in the league.

“ They feed off of each other,” Spencer said. “What has car­ried us has been our guard play. The chem­istry be­tween them has been fab­u­lous up to this point.”

With the Mules in the midst of a crit­i­cal stretch on their sched­ule that will have seen them play six games in 11 days by the end of this week­end, the play of Pa‘u and Brent will be para­mount as the team looks to po­si­tion it­self for a fa­vor­able seed­ing for the up­com­ing OIA play­offs. Al­though only a ju­nior, Pa‘u is al­ready in his third year as start­ing point guard. Also a ju­nior, Lemon is in his sec­ond year as a starter af­ter trans­fer­ring in from the Main­land.

“Dy­lan’s growth from his fresh­man year to the present has been great,” Spencer said of Pa‘u. “He’s in­creased his lead­er­ship qual­i­ties, and the other kids feed off of that. He’s a quiet leader. At prac­tice, his in­ten­sity picks every­one up.

Pa‘u also draws the daunt­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity of guard­ing the op­pos­ing team’s best back-court player.

“He’s done that since his fresh­man year,” Spencer said.“He had to guard Mike Mak­i­nano (of Camp­bell) then, who was a great player. Ev­ery­thing seems eas­ier af­ter him.”

Lemon plays the two­guard spot, but as a pair, he and Pa‘u are in­ter­change­able, in their coach’s view.

“Brent is a du­pli­cate of Dil­lon,” Spencer said. “Both have great court sense, and they keep the team to­gether, of­fen­sively and de­fen­sively. Both can han­dle the ball, and both can shoot. De­fen­sively, they can both ap­ply ball pres­sure.”

Spencer’s tal­ent pool in the back-court is so­lid­i­fied by se­nior re­serve Martin Hall, who en­ables Leile­hua to go with a three-guard set de­pend­ing on match-ups.

“ He gives us an­other qual­ity guard,” Spencer said of Hall. “He could eas­ily start on our team. At times, we can go big, and at other times, we’ve gone with three guards. We’ve been suc­cess­ful with each.”

While the Mules have hung their hats on their guard play to date, Spencer is count­ing on all hands to be on deck for this week’s games. On Wed­nes­day, they visit Aiea, on Fri­day, they travel to Rad­ford, which won the ear­lier meet­ing be­tween the teams 56-52 on Jan. 2.

In the post, the Mules have re­lied on ju­niors Stock­ton Crow­ley and Xavier Ager and se­nior Cas­sius Ca­manse, while 6foot-1 se­nior Lopaka Chan­dler has the size to play in­side if need be from the three-spot.

“Lopaka is an out­side threat that we need,” said Spencer, whose team was 22 en­ter­ing last Thurs­day night.“He can go in­side and out­side, and he’s a phys­i­cal kid. It’s a lux­ury hav­ing him.

“Xavier plays a lot big­ger than a 6-footer,” he added of Ager. “He’s one of three cap­tains, and I don’t just as­sign any­one to be a cap­tain.

Stock­ton brings that tough­ness — he was a line­backer on the foot­ball team. He’s been phys­i­cal when we’ve needed him to be, and his jump shot has been tremendous from De­cem­ber to now.”

Ca­manse, who is 6-4, played at McKin­ley his sopho­more year be­fore trans­fer­ring, but missed last sea­son with knee prob­lems. “He’s been a big sur­prise,” Spencer said. “He’s been out of bas­ket­ball for two years, but we’re see­ing him slowly im­prove.”

As he pre­pares his team for Aiea and Rad­ford this week, Spencer’s first pri­or­ity is to make sure the Mules stay out of their own way on the court. “ We weren’t shoot­ing free throws well in pre­sea­son, but we’ve got­ten bet­ter. Lim­it­ing our turnovers will give us a chance to be suc­cess­ful. We have the tal­ent. The one thing we talk to the kids about is that it is a mat­ter of ex­e­cu­tion.”

Leile­hua’s Xavier Ager (No. 41) goes up for a layup against the Kapolei High team. Photo by By­ron Lee, by­ron­lee@mid­week.com.

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