Even with a double-digit lead in the final minute, Kamehameha basketball coach Jesse Nakanishi wouldn’t let himself breathe easy.
"Nope, not until that buzzer went off," Nakanishi said.
But after enduring last-minute heartbreak against ‘Iolani in three of their most recent meetings, the second-ranked Warriors didn’t let last night’s duel come down to another dramatic finish in closing out a 50-38 win over No. 1 ‘Iolani at Kekuhaupio Gym.
‘Iolani found ways to edge Kamehameha in tense late-season showdowns last season with last-second shots against the Warriors, giving the Raiders the ILH and Division I state championships. Their first meeting this season was decided on a putback in the final 30 seconds and a blocked shot at the buzzer.
This time, Kamehameha’s defense fueled an 11-2 second-quarter run to give the Warriors (4-1) command and they maintained the cushion to hand ‘Iolani (3-1) its first loss in league play.
"This is a huge W, keeps us in the running for the ILH championship," Nakanishi said. "If we dropped that one, that puts us two back and it’s hard to come back."
In a game in which few passes went uncontested, the Warriors were able to grind out a win led by forward Micah Christenson’s 11 points and 12 rebounds.
"Everybody is going to key on Micah and other guys have to step up," Nakanishi said. "Micah does all the intangibles. Eleven points is just a small part of his game."
Makoa Camanse-Stevens hit two 3-pointers and finished with 10 points as the Warriors answered each time ‘Iolani appeared ready to make a push in the second half. Point guard Dyrbe Enos contributed nine points.
"Every game we play against ‘Iolani we come in knowing it’s going to be a huge battle," Christenson said. "Everybody on the team just stepped up today. It feels amazing because everybody’s getting big rebounds, hitting huge shots."
‘Iolani’s Adam Ching hit three 3-pointers and led the Raiders with 11 points.
Kamehameha’s pressure harried ‘Iolani into nine first-half turnovers, seven in a ragged opening period in which neither team scored in the first 4 minutes and 20 seconds.
When the Raiders did escape the Warriors’ traps at the top, Christenson posed a formidable obstacle in the paint with five blocks before halftime.
"To me our offense is our defense," Nakanishi said. "We create easy stuff with our defense and our pressure stuff and take teams out of their offense. We’re not the best halfcourt offensive team, but we try to do it on defense."
‘Iolani trailed 9-8 when Ching made a 3-pointer early in the second quarter. Kamehameha then took command, with five different players contributing to its 11-2 spurt, starting with Frank Ho’s steal leading to a layup.
"We didn’t execute today," ‘Iolani coach Dean Shimamoto said. "That’s a credit to them. They took us out of what we wanted to do.
"We knew (the trap) was coming. We had some things ready and we didn’t put them to use and that’s what’s disappointing."
The Warriors extended the lead to 26-13 when Enos grabbed a rebound and got a short jumper to fall just before the halftime buzzer.
After the lead swelled to 17 in the third quarter, ‘Iolani was able to chip away to close to 43-33 on a 3-pointer by Trevyn Tulonghari with 2:53 left. But the Raiders couldn’t get another field goal to fall until with were 42 seconds left with Kamehameha firmly in control.
"They gave us a little scare toward the end when we were turning the ball over a little bit, but we made enough plays to attack that press," Nakanishi said.
‘IOLANI–Jourdan Simmonds 4, Reid Saito 7, Kainoa Scheer 0, Josiah Sukumaran 8, Austin O’Leary 0, Trevyn Tulonghari 8, Gabriel Vega 0, Adam Ching 11, Keahi Hogan 0, Duke Pauli 0.
KAMEHAMEHA–Dyrbe Enos 9, Shane Matayoshi 3, Frank Ho 2, Micah Christenson 11, Brandon Orpillia 3, Davis Achong 4, Makoa Camanse-Stevens 10, Charlton Tang 0, Shane Yoshida 4, Zerin Parker 0.
3-point goals– ‘Iolani: 5 (Ching 3, Saito, Tulonghari). Kamehameha 4 (Camanse-Stevens 2, Matayoshi, Opillia).