Bulldogs Prep For Post-season Play
The Kaimuki boys’ basketball team’s schedule alone ensured that the Bulldogs will already be in playoff mode when the OIA postseason tournament begins next week.
The Bulldogs close out their regular-season slate this week with Tuesday’s game at Kalaheo before a trip to Kahuku on Thursday night. The Red Raiders were the OIA Red East leader heading into last weekend, while Kalaheo has made the state tournament the past 19 seasons. Pairings for the tournament will be finalized following Thursday’s game, but the Bulldogs are likely to be either the third or fourth seed out of the East for the tournament. Kaimuki beat Kalaheo in the first meeting between the teams, 49-46 on Jan. 12, and had played well three days earlier versus Kahuku at home before a strong fourth quarter allowed the Red Raiders to pull away for a 50-39 win.
With Kaimuki’s seeding a non-issue (“We know we won’t have either of the top two seeds,” head coach Kelly Grant said), the quality of the Bulldogs’ play is perhaps of more significance than the outcome of both games.
“ We just want to be healthy,” Grant said.“We play so many away games that it won’t matter where we play.”
A young roster has made 2009-10 a season of adjustments for Grant. The Bulldogs currently start two juniors ( Tevin Nishiyama and Chester Sua) and a sophomore (Mason AualiiMoe) in their lineup alongside seniors Elijah Morita and Gabriel Stietzel.
“In the past, as the season has gone along, we’ve gone from man-to-man to playing zone,” Grant said. “ This year, we’ve played zone mostly. We’ve also pressed more than we have before out of necessity.
Grant acknowledged that rebounding is an area of concern for zone-oriented teams.
“ They’ve done a really good job of knowing that ( rebounding) is often a weakness,” he said.“Another concern for us has been that we don’t have players who can finish plays at the basket as we have in the past. We’ve missed a lot of layups.”
Despite their youth, veteran leadership has still shown up in the form of Stietzel, one of the East Red’s most capable backcourt performers.
“Gabe has played the best of our players,” Grant said. “He’s been our most consistent player. He’s our go-to guy and our floor leader.”
In Kahuku, the Bulldogs will face one of the league’s best players in point guard Nehoa Akina, the son of Red Raider coach Hiram Akina. Kaimuki held him to just six points in the meeting between the teams on Jan. 9, although his supporting cast figured big in the game, in Grant’s view.
“We contained him the last time, but coach Akina is really good at putting together a game plan, and their other players really stepped up and hit some big shots,” he said. “It’s a matter of us figuring out how (Kaimuki will go about defending them).”
Due to a change in the OIA Tournament’s format, Kaimuki’s first round playoff game next week will make or break their chances of being among the five teams that will receive berths in the upcoming Hawaiian Airlines Division I State Tournament, which will run March 3-6. The tournament will be single-elimination through the first round before reverting back to the double-elimination setup that was incorporated in 2008-09. The top five finishers in the OIA Tournament earn berths.
Kaimuki took a couple of days off from practice early last week to tend to their studies and recharge their batteries.
“Hopefully, they come back fresh,” Grant said.
Contact Jack Danilewicz at Jackster.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kaimuki’s Mason Kualii-Moe goes up against Kaiser during the recent Hoops for Haiti tournament. Photo by Nathalie Walker, email@example.com.