The chants came from the students behind the Kamehameha bench as Micah Christenson went to the free-throw line. Warriors leading by more than enough, 22 seconds left to a state basketball championship.
"MVP, MVP, MVP."
Christenson was superb for nearly four complete games in four nights of the HHSAA tournament that culminated with Kamehameha’s 64-53 championship win over ‘Iolani. You might think that MVP was never in doubt — that is, unless you saw the first half of last night’s final.
"’Iolani came out hard at me and played me physically as usual," said the Warriors’ 6-foot-6 star, who scored just four of his 21 points before intermission. "We had an emotional locker room. We picked up our intensity."
Familiarity breeds … not always the prettiest basketball.
But when league rivals meet in a state championship game, you always know you’re going to get focus and fire. The defenders will dominate, sometimes no one gets an open look for a long time. And while the adrenaline’s pumping, even a star the magnitude of Christenson can find the going rough.
Of course the Raiders were going to knock him around a little, and much would depend how the game was officiated. It was called pretty loose in the first half, and the thin 6-foot-6 senior was derailed, thrown off his game.
These teams split in the regular season, ‘Iolani winning a close one and Kamehameha taking the other meeting by 12. But, if I told you the best player in the state had just four points in the first half, you might think the Raiders would be in the driver’s seat at the break, right?
But the other Warriors had his back; Dyrbe Enos, Shane Yoshida, Frank Ho, Charlton Tang and Shane Matayoshi spreading the load.
The Raiders hung in there, lurking. They were aggressive, tough and relentless — especially Reid Saito.
BUT CHRISTENSON would not be contained forever. He scored two quick baskets at the outset of the second half and then he didn’t stop.
‘Iolani closed it to three when Christenson’s teammate from when they were 10 years old, Trevyn Tulonghari, dropped a bomb. But he answered immediately with one of his own.
Then he hit another one at the third-quarter buzzer, off the glass.
Were you thinking bank?
"Oh, no," Christenson smiled. "Sometimes you get a little lucky."
"That," Warriors coach Jesse Nakanishi said, "is what great players do."
EVEN THE FARRINGTON coach agrees. The highly respected veteran Allan Silva knows his Governors didn’t belong in the Division II tournament.
Farrington had the talent — and thanks to Silva and his staff, what our deputy sports editor Curtis Murayama termed "the structure" — to compete in the Division I bracket.
Farrington might not have won the D-I tournament or even made the final. But the Govs definitely would have affected the dynamic by being another tough team in somebody’s path. The main point is that a school with an enrollment in excess of 2,000, one that is clearly among the five best in the OIA, should have been there.
Of course, after dominating feisty Pahoa most of the way to a 58-45 final win, Silva had mixed feelings.
"This is good, Division II, Division I," he said. "A lot of Division II teams can beat Division I teams."
Silva has a solution that’s not based on enrollment, but is simple and otherwise passes the common-sense test.
"In the future, begin the year with everyone in Division I. Play the regular season. Then take the top teams, put them in the Division I tournament. Then take the next-best teams and put them in the Division II tournament."
Unless someone comes up with something better, let’s do it.
CORRECTION: Kamehameha Schools basketball player Shane Yoshida was misidentified as Sheldon Yoshida in a earlier version of a "Further Review" column yesterday.