HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL
These Bulldogs have a little Sellitto in them
He shows up, here and there, still soaking up the atmosphere that is basketball.
Tony Sellitto is retired now, but the former Maryknoll and HPU coach can see his influence near and far. In fact, his fingerprints were all over Kaimuki's win over Kalaheo in the Oahu Interscholastic Association Red Conference title game.
Kaimuki, now ranked No. 3 in the Star-Bulletin Top 10, won 56-45, but the record shows that the Bulldogs were swept by the Mustangs during the regular season. On Jan. 4, Cheynne Lishman shot 5-for-6 from 3-point range and finished with 25 points in a 58-41 rout of Kaimuki.
Sixteen days later, Lishman connected on four treys and had 16 points in Kalaheo's 69-61 win at Kaimuki.
Kaimuki coach Kelly Grant played under Sellitto at Maryknoll and HPU. He was a southpaw sharpshooter then, but he absorbed the sage's defensive craft work.
That's why, when Kaimuki took the floor on Friday night, the 'Dogs had a new plan. Grant borrowed Sellitto's diamond-and-one defense especially to stop Lishman. The junior managed to score seven points, and no Mustang scored more than eight.
"We felt we had to deny him. He got open underneath a couple of times, but we'll live with that," Grant said.
The diamond, he added, adjusted to Kalaheo's tweaks. When the Mustangs went to a two-out set, Kaimuki turned the diamond into a box-and-one.
A key adjustment on the fly came in the second half.
"Our back guys watched (Kalaheo's) slide cuts," Grant noted.
That kind of pre- and in-game maneuvering is key, but the Bulldogs needed more than X's and O's this season. The defending league champions returned with a young bench and plenty of questions, then went 7-5 in regular-season play.
"Those losses made our team soul search. They helped us become successful," said Grant, whose Bulldogs will begin play in the Hawaiian Airlines/HHSAA State Championships on Wednesday.
If necessary, Kaimuki will turn to Sellitto's diamond again, or perhaps there will be another new page in the playbook. Chances are, Grant's guru will be there to see it revealed by the team in green and yellow.