Kalāheo missing in action at state tourney
By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
Even before the first opening tip this afternoon, one thing that makes this week's Hawaiian Airlines Boys Basketball State Championships different from any since 1990 is the absence of Kalāheo.
The Mustangs' streak of 19 consecutive state tournament berths ended two weeks ago with a 38-37 loss to Waipahu in the first round of the O'ahu Interscholastic Association playoffs. The last time Kalāheo missed the state tournament, this year's seniors weren't even born and construction of the Stan Sheriff Center — where Saturday's title game will be played — was still an idea being debated in the Legislature and general public.
"It was one of the things you could pencil in every year, Kalāheo being in the state tournament," said Punahou coach Alika Smith, who was a freshman standout on the 1991 state runner-up team that started the streak. "Between the players and coaches, it's a tribute to how they were always able to put things together at the right time. Kalāheo always played as a team, from the first year (of the streak) until the last, and it's easier to beat an individual than to beat a team."
Smith's father, Pete, returned as the Mustangs' head coach in that 1990-91 season and guided them to 11 OIA championships in 13 years. Chico Furtado took over the helm in 2003-2004 and Kalāheo won yet another league crown that season.
Furtado, who was Smith's top assistant for those first 13 years before taking over as head coach, said the Mustangs' success was due to a steady flow of good players working under a solid foundation of coaches. Other longtime assistants to Smith included Walter Marciel, Rocky Sauer and Tim Harrison, who is now Kailua's head coach.
"We had continuity, and when you look at other programs, a lot of times coaches aren't there long enough to build that," Furtado said. "We were blessed with good players, and when you have a tradition going, even when players graduate the next guys think it is their turn to step in and continue it."
Some of those players included Greg Miller, Scott Kato, Julian Sensley, DC Daniels, Ikaika Alama-Francis, Sam Wilhoite, Cheynne Lishman.
Furtado had announced to his team in late January that he would be stepping down after this season, saying "it was time to move on."
But Marciel, who was an assistant to Smith for 14 years and joined Furtado's staff this past season, has submitted his resume in hopes of continuing their work.
"I want to keep the tradition going," Marciel said.
Read his blog on high school sports at http://preptalk.honadvblogs.com.