Dean Shimamoto never set out to reinvent the wheel.
No, the former ‘Iolani guard took the helm last season with so many championship qualities as a coach. After working his way up through the Raiders’ legendary coaching ranks, he still had plenty of creativity in his arsenal of weapons. But the one facet he shared with outgoing coach Mark Mugiishi was evident as ‘Iolani won its first state title since 2006: finding a system to fit his personnel.
Like Mugiishi, Shimamoto has continued to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of his players, then found offensive and defensive machinery that best suited them. This year, the pace has been swift one game and plodding the next, but the Raiders win at any speed. Loaded with tough, tall interior defenders, Shimamoto turned that wealth into currency. The payoff has been massive.
A 13-1 season in the rugged Interscholastic League of Honolulu netted ‘Iolani a No. 1 seed in Division I of the Hawaiian Airlines/Hawaii High School Athletic Association Boys Basketball State Championships, which tip off today.
Here’s a look at the D-I tournament seedings and pairings.
1. ‘Iolani (13-1 ILH)
» On paper: Twelve wins in a row followed a 12-point loss at Kamehameha more than a month ago. No matter what opponents throw at the Raiders, nothing sticks for long. The backcourt of Reid Saito (7.9 points per game) and Trevyn Tulonghari (10.5) is equally effective on either end of the floor.
Josiah Sukumaran, a 6-foot-3 senior, has emerged as a scoring factor (8.8 ppg) and a versatile defender. In clutch situations, Shimamoto has moved the long-armed leaper to lock down any opposing scorer.
Gabriel Vega (6-6), Keahi Hogan (6-3) and Duke Pauli (6-3) give the Raiders interchangeable pieces in the paint, while Kainoa Scheer (6-2) provides a combination of strength, leverage and experience.
» The skinny: It’s no surprise that Shimamoto and his staff, which includes his former state-championship teammate Adam Wong, has developed key contributors over the course of the season. Jourdan Simmonds, a sharpshooting guard, has morphed into a capable point guard. Adam Ching has become valuable as a zone-busting gunner off the bench.
Where many other programs keep trying to fit squares into circles, the Raiders simply figure out what works best.
» X factor: Four of ‘Iolani’s ILH wins were decided by four points or less. Even with the dominant win-loss record, there were times when the Raiders struggled to protect leads, turning the ball over while employing a delay game to start the fourth quarter against tough ILH competition. Of course, having that lead to begin with just about every night separates ‘Iolani from the pack.
2. Moanalua (13-7 OIA)
» On paper: It’s been a season of swings through high and low stretches for Na Menehune, who were 3-6 in league play at one point and in danger of missing the playoffs. They’ve won 10 of their past 11 games, including a 5-1 mark against Top 10 teams. Last week’s back-to-back wins over Kahuku for the OIA crown gave Moanalua its second league title in a row.
» The skinny: Between Dexter Williams (15.9 ppg), Wesley Armbrust (13.4) and Keven Amaral (10), defenses already had enough to focus on. The rise of senior guard Brandon Guerrero as a zone-buster is a big help against teams that try to slow Na Menehune down by going to zones.
Dillon Turk (6-3), Richard Villasenor (6-2) and Carl Ko (6-3) are integral parts of their low-post defense.
Offensively, coach Greg Tacon has stayed with a five-out look that opens the floor for slashers like Amaral and Williams. Amaral can be especially difficult as a left-hander, and both are streaky 3-point shooters.
Williams, a 6-3 leaper, picks his opportunities well as a shot blocker. Armbrust had an ankle injury in December, but is back to full strength. He had 18 points in the OIA final against Kahuku, including the go-ahead bucket with 10 seconds left.
» X factor: Backup guards Guerrero and Bronson Kepa have contributed in a big way during the postseason. Guerrero’s 3-point accuracy has destroyed zone defenses. Kepa’s ballhandling and explosiveness have shredded fullcourt pressure. Their performances have somewhat neutralized Moanalua’s tendency to commit unforced turnovers.
3. Kamehameha-Hawaii (12-2 BIIF)
» On paper: They don’t have a pure center, so to speak, but from 1 to 4, the Warriors are fast, aggressive and athletic. Guards Lanaki Apele (12.3 ppg) and Shaun Kagawa (11.7) are pull-up jump shooters, but their defensive toughness is matched by few. Forward Jayce Carvalho (6-4) is shooting well. He scored 20 points in a 59-41 win over Hilo in the BIIF final. Jacob Kackley (13.3 ppg), a 6-1 junior, and Kaeo Alapai (8.3 ppg), a 6-foot swingman, give the Warriors one of the most athletic squads in the tourney.
» The skinny: Early in the season, after defeating Punahou en route to the St. Francis/Merv Lopes Classic title, the Warriors were ranked as high as third in the Star-Advertiser Top 10. Since then, one-point losses to Hilo and St. Joseph on the road were the only blemishes on their BIIF slate.
If there’s one benefit to coming back to Oahu, it’s about style. The Warriors’ halfcourt and fullcourt defenses are about high pressure and high intensity. In the BIIF, where officials traditionally call slight contact as a personal foul, that can be tough for any pressing team. That may be a key reason why KS-Hawaii thrived in the Lopes tourney, using their constant traps to stifle foes.
Alapai and Colby Cabatu (6-2) provide depth in the post and size in that swarming defense.
» X factor: Coach Dominic Pacheco’s team looks like the old Hilo Vikings with their ability to score in transition and trap all over the floor, but Pacheco’s main coaching influence came from Jimmy Alegre. Though Pacheco gives his team the green light often enough, that emphasis on defense goes back to those years at Radford.
4. Lahainaluna (13-2 MIL)
» On paper: If there ever were a mystery champion, the Lunas fit the role.
They left the Valley Isle only once in December, to play in the St. Joseph/Waiakea Classic. There, the Lunas swept through Hilo, Kalani and Waiakea before losing to Kamehameha-Hawaii by 30 points. In fact, they barely got past the three previous teams, including a 49-48 win over Kalani. The following week, Lahainaluna fell to Seabury Hall 56-55.
Since then, first-year coach John Dudley’s team has been on a phenomenal roll. Luke Williams (18.5 ppg) and T.J. Rickard (14.4) have become go-to scorers. The Lunas fell twice to Baldwin late in the season, but bounced back to beat the Bears in the MIL final 50-40.
It’s been 10 days of practice since then.
» The skinny: Last year’s squad had the size and physicality to stay with Kahuku in the opening round of the state tourney, but adjusting from MIL officiating to the HHSAA level took time — a common challenge to neighbor-island teams. Rickard (18 points) and Williams (six) bring that experience back to the big dance this week. If either can step up like Sam Kiek did (24 points, 11 boards) in that loss, the Lunas could surprise.
» X factor: Rickard, son of Lahainaluna girls basketball coach Todd Rickard, is a true floor leader who can finish strong. He was 13-for-14 at the foul line in the MIL final. He and Williams have been reliable, but a third scoring option is key. Folau Tauese, playing in his first state tourney, could be that option.
Hilo vs. Kahuku
There are a few fullcourt pressing teams in the tourney, but this guarantees a matchup of uptempo, run-and-gun squads.
Kahuku (12-5 OIA) has the rebounders to kick-start the break with Shairone Thompson (6-5) and K.J. Uluave (6-3). Point guard Galeai Malufau excels at getting the ball to his scorers in transition, whether by halfcourt lob to the post or kick-outs to sharpshooters like Kawehena Johnson on the 3-point arc.
Hilo (12-3 BIIF) is basically a 6-1 and under team, but its interior toughness is right there with any taller opponent. Randen Berinobis (19.2 ppg) is a double-double machine in Hilo’s balanced attack. Kainoa Kawaha and Rico Loeak are also key scorers.
Kahuku’s post scorers were smothered — and Thompson was in foul trouble — against Moanalua in the OIA final, and its perimeter shooters were off the mark.
Radford vs. Mililani
These OIA Red West rivals met three times during the regular season and playoffs. Radford (13-3 OIA) won twice. The Rams have size with Steven "Ace" Watkins (6-8) and Nahshon George (6-5), but rely heavily on the streaky long-range shooting of guard T.J. Reid.
Mililani (11-5 OIA) loves to run the floor and gets plenty of opportunities with Hassan Richardson (6-4), tough penetrator Brady Spiridigliozzi and gunner Alex Bumgarner. However, the Trojans have lacked the will defensively in their past two games. They fell behind by 28 points against Kahuku before cutting the lead to five and eventually losing. They were down to Moanalua by 22 before turning it around, slicing the margin to five and losing again.
Richardson (18.6 ppg) is a rebounding and shotblocking machine, but unless there’s more help on the boards, the run-and-gun Trojans will need to turn the game into a track meet.
Baldwin vs. Kamehameha
The Bears (12-3 MIL) will learn quickly whether they’ll be a real threat to the powerhouse Warriors (12-2 ILH). Baldwin has a nice midrange scorer in Timothy Pang and a crafty left-handed 2 guard in Gabriel Ross, but there will be a huge challenge in facing Kamehameha’s Micah Christenson (17.9 ppg).
The 6-5 senior, last year’s co-state player of the year, is a double-double dominator who is equally adept at blocking shots and shooting with either hand. Dyrbe Enos, Davis Achong, Frank Ho and Shane Matayoshi give coach Jesse Nakanishi plenty of big-game experience.
Roosevelt vs. AOP
These two immensely talented teams met in late December at Moanalua’s Na Menehune Holiday Classic, a 54-33 win by AOP.
However, Roosevelt coach Steve Hathaway sensed the need for rest and benched his starters for half the game, so the result wasn’t a true indication of anything.
AOP (11-5 ILH) is making history, playing in the Division I state tourney for the first time.
Micah Dunhour, a 6-5 senior, was the anchor early on as a returning starter and go-to scorer. Since then, transfers Kona Makaula and Moritz Krume have developed and meshed as the Dolphins surprised Punahou in the ILH tourney to claim the final state berth.
First-year coach Wally Marciel doesn’t have a deep bench, but his rotation is reliable. He has also added a fullcourt press to make use of his team’s quickness and aggression.
Roosevelt (12-4 OIA) has been through peaks and valleys all season, but Hathaway got what he wanted: a relatively healthy and eligible team in the state tourney.
Tomorrow: Division II state tournament preview.