Within the DNA of success, there’s a common code at Kamehameha, it seems.
Their best programs reach their peak level at the state championships. It was true for the girls volleyball team. It’s true for the boys basketball team. Coach Jesse Nakanishi’s squad closed out the season with 11 wins in a row and 14 in its last 15 games. The lone defeat during that stretch was against AOP, the same team it eliminated during this past week’s state tournament.
Kamehameha proved, once again, that great offense — 78 points per game going into the final — will beat great defense. That includes a low turnover count (eight) and precise field-goal shooting (48 percent) — numbers rarely achieved against the Raiders.
In three years, the Warriors have taken on all comers, traveling to the continent to face tougher competition. In that span, Nakanishi’s teams, with tournament most outstanding player Micah Christenson at the forefront, were 72-17 overall, a winning percentage of .808.
They did it by playing to their strengths. Aside from the 6-foot-6 Christenson, Kamehameha’s posts were moderately sized — in the 6-foot to 6-2 range — and nobody in the backcourt was taller than 5-10. Rather than sit back full-time, Nakanishi employed traps and constant on-ball pressure over the 94-foot length of the floor. Occasionally, the Warriors sat back in a 2-3 matchup zone.
The rest was up to the offense, where junior point guard Dyrbe Enos was fluid at the controls.
"I’m relieved. We figured last year we came in second and that was our motivation to work hard and become state champs," Enos said. "Championship effort and championship urgency. We had the urgency to win. That’s what Coach Jesse talked about: championship urgency."
Nakanishi had four games worth of smiles.
"It’s exhilarating," Nakanishi said. "It’s the same as last year. We had the same locker room, the same team (‘Iolani). It’s surreal It’s been a long year, but so worth it."
Christenson finished with 22 points, 12 boards and nearly three steals per game. He also finished 10-for-18 from 3-point range.
"It started the second round when we played ‘Iolani. It progressed and kept going and we peaked perfectly," the USC-bound senior said.
Davis Achong, the left-handed guard with a deadly 3-point shot, had two big steals in the second half to help Kamehameha maintain momentum.
"All season long we practice defense, one-on-one drills fullcourt, and we knew that our guards can stay with anybody. We have the best guards in the state, we felt, and that defensively, that was the key."
Reserve guard Frank Ho had the best week of his career at the right time.
"It was my turn to shine. We worked as a team, so it’s not really my week," the senior sharpshooter said. "While I was warming up, the word I thought about was ‘unconscious.’ Don’t even think about it. Just put it up."
That confidence and hot shooting were enough to beat an ‘Iolani team that had exchanged the No. 1 ranking with the Warriors all season.
"We got outplayed tonight. (Christenson) just hitting key shots, kept their lead going," ‘Iolani guard Reid Saito said. "I still grade our season high. I had a lot of fun. I love everyone on my team. It was just a great experience."
Raiders coach Dean Shimamoto saw his team endure injuries. That includes two knee injuries in two years for senior post Kainoa Scheer, who was still a force down low.
"We’re never really satisfied not ending up on top, but our guys really battled, and they had a great year," Shimamoto said. "No one sees how hard they work in practice. Credit to Kamehameha. They’re a really good team."
GOVERNORS GET IT DONE IN DIVISION II
Farrington captured its second state Division II title in four seasons behind the highlight-reel plays of J.P. Saycon. Viane Vaina and Lancelot "Keke" Williams were powerful on the post, and guards Jeffrey Madarang and Michael Kleman provided key contributions, especially in the first-half run that propelled the Govs over Pahoa.
"We proved that we should be in D-I, not D-II, but this win still means a lot to us, regardless of division," said Saycon, a 5-11 junior. "We can’t choose it, you know. (Coach Allan Silva) said wait until next year or the year after that."
Saycon provided the highlight of the night with a lift-off at full speed for a fast-break dunk in traffic through the paint.
"I just wanted the crowd to get into the game," he said.
Silva’s consistent message of positive thinking continues to lift the program.
"I’m so happy for our seniors. When they came up through the program, they kept hearing about the 2008 state championship (D-II) team. But now they have a piece of that," he said. "Pahoa’s a very tough team. I told the guys at halftime they were going to come back. You saw what happened."
Pahoa trailed by 19 before cutting the lead to 38-32 thanks to Nick Fisher’s resilience. Fisher finished with 23 points and 11 boards against the bigger Govs.
"It’s not the position I wanted to be in. I wanted to be wearing the gold (medal), but this team (Farrington) was the more athletic team," Fisher said. "Our team showed we’ve got heart and we won’t give up. Pahoa’s real chill, a family environment, everybody knows each other. We’re just like a family. Once somebody falls down, we pick ’em up. We’ve got their back."
"We had some good sophomores coming in and they stepped up. I’m sorry we can’t give (a title) to them, but I tried my best."
KAMEHAMEHA, HONOKAA TOP SEEDS IN BOYS SOCCER
Kamehameha was awarded the top seed in this week’s HHSAA Boys Soccer State Championships yesterday.
The Warriors, who won the state championship in 2008, are joined by No. 2 Kapolei, No. 3 Hilo and No. 4 King Kekaulike as the top seeds and will enjoy a bye.
Defending champion Punahou plays Roosevelt in the first round along with Baldwin vs. Aiea, Kaiser vs. Waiakea and Mililani vs. Moanalua.
First-round games are Wednesday at 3 p.m. at the Waipio Peninsula Soccer Complex.
Honokaa was the top seed in the Division II tournament, but will not get a bye in the eight-team affair that begins Thursday at the Waipio Peninsula Soccer Complex.
The BIIF champion Dragons meet Radford in the first round, and could play Mid-Pacific in the second round if the Owls beat St. Anthony.
Mid-Pacific beat Honokaa 4-0 in last year’s state championship game.
The other side of the bracket opens with No. 2 Kapaa vs. Konawaena and No. 3 Waipahu vs. Hawaii Prep.
The Divsion II championship is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Saturday, with the Divsion I title game to follow.
The Star-Advertiser’s Brian McInnis contributed to this report.