4 seeded squads
start up tomorrow

Heading into tomorrow's quarterfinal round of the Hawaiian Airlines Boys State Basketball Championship, the four seeded teams are well-rested and ready to tip off.

Iolani, the top seed, aims to win its fourth state crown in a row.

Here's a look at the four seeds:

Konawaena (fourth seed) vs. Campbell or Kamehameha-Maui

Tip-off: Tomorrow, 2:15 p.m.

On paper: Under first-year head coach Donald Awa, the seventh-ranked Wildcats have emphasized defense. Center Max Watson, a 6-foot-6 senior, gives Konawaena's athletic forwards the freedom to extend the Wildcat zone.

Konawaena (24-5, 17-1 Big Island Interscholastic Federation) can go tall, but when they want a zone buster, Sean Fujii is a key component. Fujii has a single-game high of 12 3-pointers.

The skinny: The Wildcats prefer to stay in their zone, but have plenty of athleticism and speed. They turned a one-point halftime lead into a 23-point win against Waiakea. T.J. Akina, a 6-1 senior, can run the point or wing effectively. Evan Rogers and Shannon Hardie, both juniors, have helped offensively. When they're contributing, the floor opens up for Akina.

X factor: If Campbell gets past KS-Maui, the Wildcats will be the underdogs on paper. However, their zone defense will put Campbell's perimeter shooting to the test.

Kahuku (second seed) vs. Kamehameha or Kaimuki

Tip-off: Tomorrow, 4 p.m.

On paper: Kahuku (20-2, 13-1 Oahu Interscholastic Association) scored 70 points per game in the regular-season, easily leading the OIA. The fourth-ranked Red Raiders mix defenses, sometimes extending to a three-quarter press, and take advantage of teams that tire in the second half. Coach Nathan James gets the most out of his team's athleticism and long-range shooting skill.

The skinny: The Red Raiders came out slow in some key games this season, including a one-point loss to Roosevelt. Kahuku seems to play more crisply -- and with more urgency -- when playing from behind.

Shane Hayden and Clinton Parks have the green light to launch from the arc and beyond, while Devin Unga and Kevin Unga have been spectacular offensive rebounders at times.

X factor: Okesene Ale Jr. is a matchup headache for just about any team in the state. The 6-1 junior can play any position. In this lineup, he's the 3, though he's more efficient as a 2, and very capable of playing the 1.

Kahuku barely got past Kaimuki last week, and the prospect of possibly facing an athletic Kamehameha squad is equally challenging.

Baldwin (third seed) vs. Punahou or Waiakea

Tip-off: Tomorrow, 5:45 p.m.

On paper: In December, it didn't matter who Baldwin played (with the exception of Iolani). The Bears (21-2, 12-0 Maui Interscholastic League) executed at mid-season tempo and defeated a number of solid teams handily, both on Oahu and Maui.

Cody Nakamura, at 6-1, is a highly efficient low-post scorer. So is Trenson Himalaya, though he was recently hampered by an ankle injury. Matt Heyd is a solid wing, while point guard Cody Tesoro has been a consistent backcourt general. Above all, Baldwin's deliberate high-post motion offense is still king.

The skinny: This is the payoff year, so to speak, for a senior-heavy team. They may not have immense height, but neither do Iolani or Kahuku. Question is, can the Bears handle the swarming half-court pressure of an Iolani, or even Kahuku?

X factor: Who will step up on the perimeter for Baldwin? There is no clear go-to scorer on the wing, which means Baldwin will have to do an outstanding job of blocking out under the boards to stay in games.

Iolani (top seed) vs. Kauai or Kalaheo

Tip-off: Tomorrow, 7:30 p.m.

On paper: Iolani (26-2, 14-0 Interscholastic League of Honolulu) has been brilliant, going four seasons without a loss to Hawaii teams. The Raiders entered the season as a three-time defending state champ, but without Derrick Low, even a loss or two in league play wasn't above consideration.

Instead of losing, the Raiders kept rolling. Kyle Pape, a 6-1 senior, emerged as one of the top players in the state, unmatched on both ends of the floor. Vinny Nip developed into a clutch 3-point shooter. Barry Kang made a successful transition from JV to varsity point guard.

With a veteran staff, head coach Mark Mugiishi made necessary adjustments, and Iolani is still the team to beat.

The skinny: A jump-shooting team always has its struggles, but this is not a normal bunch of high school players. The Raiders are extremely patient and smart. Perhaps most importantly, each player knows his role well.

Iolani eats unprepared opponents alive with swarming half-court traps.

X factor: Those same traps leave a few holes in Iolani's defense, and Punahou is one team that knows how to exploit it. However, even if Iolani chose to play straight man defense, few offenses have the chemistry to sustain runs against the Raiders. Only one factor can stop Iolani from winning a fourth state title in a row: Iolani.

E-mail to Sports Desk


© Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- https://archives.starbulletin.com