HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL
Iolani moves behind Punahou
Winning is always nice, but not many players get to enjoy the fruits of victory like Ryan Dung did.
Not long after Iolani upset Vincent (Milwaukee, Wis.) at the Iolani Classic, Dung had his hands on the third-place trophy. The Raiders posted their highest finish ever in the tournament, and Dung relished it so much, he was seen leaving the facility late in the night with the trophy in his arms.
"Doc told me to hug it tonight and bring it back tomorrow," Dung said of orders from his coach, Mark Mugiishi.
Iolani, young and reloading after five consecutive state titles, moved up to No. 2 in today's Star-Bulletin Boys Basketball Top 10.
Iolani posted wins over White Station (Memphis, Tenn.) and Vincent at the Classic, and Punahou defeated St. Mary's (N.Y.) and Villa Park (Calif.) in its tournament.
The wins were notable since the mainland teams were very good by any standard.
"It feels good to prove that we can play ball with anyone," Punahou guard Miah Ostrowski said.
The Buffanblu, ranked No. 1 in the Star-Bulletin Top 10, faced a Villa Park team that was actually bigger -- a first for Punahou this season.
"It was fun. I always enjoy the challenge of playing a mainland team," said Spencer McLachlin, who had 19 points and 15 rebounds. "We noticed that with the last two mainland teams, they were good, but they didn't do the little things. They took it easy in warm-ups. That's their fault.
"It was good to prove Hawaii has talent in basketball. Iolani proved it, too. It's good practice for when we play the better teams in the ILH and OIA."
Ostrowski, now a senior, takes Punahou's top ranking with a grain of salt.
"It really doesn't matter to us. We haven't proven anything yet," he said. "But hopefully, more people will come out to support us."
A classic coach: When the inaugural Merv Lopes Classic tips off on Wednesday, old faces will reunite at historic King Armory Gym.
For Lopes, it is a chance to revisit the facility that started off his legendary coaching career. Since Kailua High School didn't have its own gym at the time, the Surfriders used King Armory in Kaneohe. The armory was a busy place, and Kailua could use it only before school hours.
Lopes picked up his players at 5 a.m., rain or shine, and headed to practice diligently. All of this was long before he led Kailua to a state title, and well before he guided Chaminade to basketball prowess and an unforgettable upset of then-No. 1 Virginia.
Somewhere along the line, he met Sol Batoon.
"He was coaching a JC. I think it was Seminole (Fla.), and he was recruiting a 6-10 kid from the Netherlands," Lopes recalled. "That's his mentality. There are no borders. He goes wherever basketball is."
When Batoon, now a religion teacher at St. Francis, drummed up the idea of a tournament to honor Lopes, invitations were snapped up quickly. Batoon coaches Thompson Academy, a Division II program in the Oahu Interscholastic Association, but will soon coach boys at St. Francis when the school goes co-ed. Boys will begin attending St. Francis next year at the sixth-grade level.
"He's energetic. He's a good man," school principal Sister Joan of Arc Souza said. "We share the same philosophy. We want our students in sports, to have focus in life so they can excel."
The freedom granted to Batoon is something he enjoyed.
"I always wanted to do this for Coach (Lopes), but I never had an opportunity. This is the right time to do it," he said. "Now we can introduce the state to St. Francis."
The tournament features 16 teams, a robust number for a first-time event, and includes mighty Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.) and several other mainland teams.
Mililani, a contender for the OIA West title, will have the honor of facing the national powerhouse.
"I think Sol said he picked (the matchups) out of a hat," Trojans coach Hiram Akina said. "We're looking forward to it."
For Akina, coming back to King Armory will jog the memory bank. He played at BYU-Hawaii, which used the armory as a home gym. "It's 'Hoosiers,' " he said of the atmosphere in the small, loud facility.
The tourney tips off at 10 a.m. on Wednesday.
More, more, more: If the Lopes Classic is out of the way for some fans, there is more than enough hoops to go around. The Na Menehune Classic tips off on Wednesday at Moanalua with a field of 16 teams. Host Moanalua will play Hawaii Baptist at 1:30 p.m.
The Walter Wong Classic, with teams from Japan, Canada and the mainland, also begins on Wednesday. Host Saint Louis will face Listowel (Canada) at 7:30 p.m. All games are at McCabe Gym.
There is also the Honokaa Tournament, comprised of six Big Island teams at Lester Bryan Armory.
Hamamatsu, the Japanese team in the Walter Wong tourney, won't hold back a bit. The team will play at Kaimuki tomorrow night before playing four more games in the tournament.
Tough start, no regrets: Thompson Academy has yet to win a game in three seasons of OIA regular-season play, but the advent of Division II for the state championships has opened a door.
Tristian Sealy transferred from Campbell to Thompson for his senior season. He rejoined his former coach, Batoon. The Sharks have struggled against tough Division I competition and are 1-4 so far in nonconference play.
The move was a necessity, Sealy said.
"This gave me a chance to excel in my academics. Thompson teaches you to be responsible. There's no one else to help you except the teachers, so it's getting me prepared for the next level," the talented guard said.