LHS Mules Look To Seed High In Upcoming OIA Playoffs
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, email@example.com.