Mus­tangs In Good Spot For OIA East Bas­ket­ball Play­offs

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

Kala­heo High School’s var­sity bas­ket­ball team may have al­ready clinched a first-round bye for the OIA post­sea­son tour­na­ment, but it’s ap­proach­ing this week’s games with Roo­sevelt and Moanalua as if they both were play­off games in their own right.

“This is where you want to be, and our kids have put them­selves in this sit­u­a­tion by tak­ing care of their busi­ness,” said Mus­tang head coach Alika Smith. “Now we have two tough games, and we have to go and get them.”

The Mus­tangs, who were the lone un­de­feated team re­main­ing in the OIA East late last week at 8-0, were as­sured of at least the No. 2 seed and a bye for the first round en­ter­ing last week­end. But they held only a onegame lead over Kahuku, which was 7-1.

Kala­heo beat the Red Raiders 62-56 at home Jan. 7, so the Mus­tangs own the head-to-head tiebreaker, should both teams fin­ish the sea­son this week with iden­ti­cal records.

In the Roo­sevelt and Moanalua teams, Kala­heo will face two of its big­ger tests in the East. The Rough Rid­ers were 4-4 at press time and in a fight for a play­off berth, while Moanalua was in third place at 5-3, be­hind both Kala­heo and Kahuku.

Roo­sevelt has been hit­ting its stride of late, post­ing a huge win over Moanalua be­fore nearly tak­ing down Far­ring­ton in a 63-59 de­feat.

“It starts on the de­fen- sive end, es­pe­cially against teams that are quick and can pen­e­trate,” Smith said of Roo­sevelt. “If we aren’t fo­cused de­fen­sively, teams can score eas­ily. Roo­sevelt plays well to­gether.”

Of­fen­sively, Kala­heo will have a big size ad­van- tage in the Roo­sevelt game. “They are not that big, so we have to make them play down low, es­pe­cially with Ku­paa (Har­ri­son) post­ing up,” Smith said.

A ver­sa­tile 6- foot- 5 guard, Har­ri­son is av­er­ag­ing 13.7 points per game. Kala­heo’s start­ing lineup of late also has in­cluded Kaleb Gil­more, Zach Marotte, and Kekai and Jalen Smith.

The ros­ter also fea­tures Alec MacLeod, An­drew Kear­ney, Kekoa Thomp­son, Alex Layi, Ash­ton Arnold and Ja- An­dre La­mar.

As was the case since pre­sea­son camp, the team em­pha­sis has been on de­fen­sive play, ac­cord­ing to Smith. Kala­heo’s best of­fense has been its de­fense at times this year.

“Our de­fense is still a work in progress,” Smith ad­mit­ted. “We have some men­tal lapses out there, and we’re try­ing to work on it in prac­tice. We point out their mis­takes in ei­ther a soft voice or a loud voice. Some of our kids have played to­gether for a long time, and some of them haven’t.

“That’s what hap­pens when we’re go­ing good,” he added. “We’re get­ting quick re­bounds and quick out­lets, guys are run­ning and fill­ing lanes and get­ting the ball up the floor. That (up­tempo play) is some­thing Kaleb brings to the ta­ble.”

Gil­more, who trans­ferred from Mary­knoll in the off-sea­son, is cur­rently Kala­heo’s lead­ing scorer at 18 points per game. He also has con­verted 23 three-point­ers, dat­ing back to pre­sea­son.

Back-to-back losses to Kahuku and Roo­sevelt re­moved Moanalua from the mix for the East ti­tle, but Na Mene­hune bounced back from those set­backs with an im­pres­sive win over the Kalani Fal­cons last week for their fifth con­fer­ence win.

“Moanalua is an­other team that plays hard,” Smith said. “They have some kids who can do some dam­age, and they play well to­gether. They’re the type of team where all five guys can hurt you be­cause they’re so un­selfish and can find the open man.

“We’ll need to (de­fen­sive) stops.”

Pair­ings for the OIA tour­ney, which be­gins Feb. 13, were to be fi­nal­ized over the week­end. The Mus­tangs will likely host a quar­ter­fi­nal matchup Feb. 14.

The top six fin­ish­ers will earn the league’s berths for the Di­vi­sion I state bas­ket­ball tour­na­ment Feb. 25-28.

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