Bull­dogs Prep For Post-sea­son Play

MidWeek Islander (East Oahu) - - EAST OAHU EAST OAHU SPORTS ISLANDER / FEBRUARY 3, - By JACK DANILEWICZ

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.1969@ya­hoo.com.

Kaimuki’s Ma­son Kualii-Moe goes up against Kaiser dur­ing the re­cent Hoops for Haiti tour­na­ment. Photo by Nathalie Walker, nwalker@mid­week.com.

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