Future looks good for the Bulldogs
The finish wasn't what they wanted, but second in the state has a sweet sound for Kaimuki's basketball team.
Coach Kelly Grant grew up a few blocks from the campus, but wound up attending Maryknoll to help then-coach Tony Sellitto win a state crown in 1984.
Grant's second season as Kaimuki coach was a matter of destiny, and the Bulldogs, with a healthy number of returnees, could return to the final next season.
Grant wonders a bit, however, how they'll reach for the top without senior leaders like Jarret Shiu.
"He's the glue that holds this team together," he said of the point guard. "We would never have gone this far without him. I see him as a coach one day."
The Bulldogs will return a solid nucleus of 6-foot-4 Beau Albrechtson, forward Keone Reyes and guard Daniel Colon. The experience of reaching the final will prove invaluable as they become seniors next year.
"From last year to this year, the players are more aware of each other," Grant said. "Last year, when we lost to Kamehameha, we were really lost, so this year, everybody learned everybody else's responsibilities."
Grant won't forget his outgoing seniors easily.
"Shaun (Dela Calzada) and Shad (Ramos-Dias) did such a good job. They all grew," he said.
Reyes is looking forward to the challenge of being a senior leader.
"We can fill their places. The new guys who will come up have big shoes to fill in, but I believe, I have faith they'll be ready," said Reyes, who was voted to the all-tournament team along with Albrechtson.
"Iolani is a good team," Reyes added. "No doubt."
Lunas look to the future:
The last thing most, if not all, basketball prognosticators expected in the first round of the Hawaiian Airlines/HHSAA Boys Basketball State Championships was for Kamehameha to struggle.
After all, the Interscholastic League of Honolulu runner-up had been atop the Star-Bulletin's Top 10 rankings for much of the season. Lahainaluna? The Lunas, at 7-5, emerged from the pack and earned a state berth by winning the Maui Interscholastic League tournament. The only ranked team Lahainaluna had faced all season was Baldwin, which handled the Lunas in regular-season play.
The last time the Lunas were state-tournament quality, Rich Brooks was their coach and Maafu and Tevita Finau were dominant in the MIL. This time, it was a former Brooks assistant who guided the team.
Eric Balinbin completed his fourth year at the helm, one in which the highlight may have been a 51-49 loss to Kamehameha last week.
Balinbin, 32, had visualized the Lunas in the big dance long ago.
"I never played in the state tournament, and when I was in college (at UH), I'd come down and watch," he said.
The Lunas overcame a mix of challenges during the season, forcing Balinbin to play several reserves in full-time positions.
"We learned a lot about our kids out of necessity," said Balinbin, who is a counselor at the school.
While Baldwin has been the most prominent MIL hoops program, the Lunas could eventually reach that elite level. The junior varsity team finished first in the regular season.
Bears coach happy:
Despite a bumpy road in Honolulu, Baldwin coach Wayne Gushiken
was content and even looking forward to next season.
"Our No. 1 goal was to win the MIL. And No. 2 was to play well here. We played well," he said of a heartbreaking overtime loss to Kahuku in the quarterfinal round.
In the Bears' second game, a losers bracket matchup against Kalaheo, they were already playing for the future.
"We mixed the lineup up," Gushiken said.
Freshmen Michael Marrs and Micah Shibano saw plenty of playing time.
"They'll probably be our starting backcourt next year," he said of the duo, which will have big shoes to fill with the graduation of Jeff Tumacder.
For neighbor-island teams that qualify for the state basketball tourney, making travel plans can be a scary task.
Honokaa, for example, won its state berth by beating Keaau in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation tournament two weeks ago. That gave the Dragons mere days to find flights, hotel rooms and vans for their first-round game last week in Honolulu.
More than that, says Honokaa coach Cheyenne Meyer, the cost of travel continues to be a hazard for small programs.
"At least our league should help us with air costs, or maybe rooms, whichever is cheaper," said Meyer, who played on the Dragons' state-tourney team in 1989.
"For our home games, all the gate goes to the league. That's why we made our preseason tournament, to raise funds. When we make states, we don't have time to raise money."
Last year, another BIIF coach asked why neighbor island teams have to pay their own way when the tourney is sponsored by an airline. However, Hawaii High School Athletic Association chief Keith Amemiya said Hawaiian Airlines has been a generous sponsor for years now and that the funds provided go to many HHSAA events.
Back to the future:
Kohala has reached back and hired Tony Manantan
as football coach.
Manantan has gone this route before. In the 1990s, he was a successful Pop Warner coach and was brought in to guide the Cowboys' varsity program when it was rebuilt after a long hiatus. Eventually, after some success with the high school, he returned to the Pop Warner ranks.
This time, he is coming up with a group of his Pop Warner players and coaching staff after Beldon Kealoha stepped down.
Pac-3 opens position:
The Titans have opened the football coaching position after learning that Jim Klaczak
applied for openings at two other Maui Interscholastic League schools.
Pac-3, a combination of St. Anthony, Kaahumanu Hou and Seabury Hall, has been alive for three seasons. The Titans' first coach was Kevin O'Brien, who had guided St. Anthony with a level of competitive success. He stepped down after one season with Pac-3, however, citing disagreements in philosophy with the administration.
Klaczak was told of Pac-3's decision by St. Anthony principal Edwina Wilson-Snyder. His teams were 3-15 in two seasons of MIL play, including a D-II league title in 2004.
He applied for the coaching jobs at King Kekaulike and Maui in recent months. Both positions were filled by other applicants, but Klaczak could wind up with Lahainaluna as an assistant, thanks to his friendship with longtime coach Bobby Watson.
Coaches clinic coming:
Registration is under way for the second annual Pacific Islands Athletic Alliance coaches clinic, which will be held on May 19.
The event is open to high school coaches. Among the speakers are coaches from Boise State, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nebraska, New Mexico State, San Diego State and Washington. More coaches are expected, said the PIAA's Doris Sullivan.
In addition, the annual PIAA football combine will be held on May 20 at Saint Louis. Sponsors are being sought. For more information, call 261-5000.
Athletes of the Week
Kawika Shoji, Iolani basketball:
The 6-foot-4 senior was voted most outstanding player of the Hawaiian Airlines/HHSAA Boys Basketball State Championships as the Raiders captured their fifth crown in a row. He had 11 points, seven rebounds and four assists in a 59-38 quarterfinal win over Kalaheo. He scored 19 points in a 60-36 semifinal win over Kahuku. Shoji capped his performance with 10 points and seven boards in a 54-41 title win over Kaimuki.
Beau Albrechtson, Kaimuki:
Scored 23 points in a quarterfinal win over Campbell. The 6-4 junior had 11 points and 13 rebounds in a semifinal win over Kamehameha.
Okesene Ale Jr., Kahuku: Scored 34 points in an opening-round 67-63 overtime win over Honokaa. Scored 16 points in a 50-46 overtime win over Baldwin in the quarterfinals.
Cameron Bayne, Saint Louis: Scored 18 points in a loss to Campbell.
Rykin Enos, Kamehameha: Scored 10 points in a 49-45 quarterfinal win over Kamehameha-Hawaii. Scored 16 points in a semifinal loss to Kaimuki.
Andrew Godinet, Kamehameha: Scored 16 points as the Warriors outlasted Lahainaluna in the first round.
Ryan Hayes, Campbell: Scored 19 points in a quarterfinal loss to Kaimuki.
Jacob Ho, Kamehameha: Scored the winning basket with 3 seconds left in a win over Lahainaluna. Scored 17 points in a 49-45 quarterfinal win over Kamehameha-Hawaii.
Marvin Judd, Kalaheo: Tallied 18 points in a quarterfinal loss to Iolani.
Mike Makinano, Campbell: Scored 27 points as the Sabers upset Saint Louis 64-63 in the opening round.
Keone Reyes, Kaimuki: Scored 18 points in the championship-game loss to Iolani.
To nominate ...
To nominate an athlete of the week, contact the Star-Bulletin Sports Department by 11 p.m. Sunday: