'Iolani claims title on clutch basket
• Photo gallery: Boys basketball state DI championship
By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
Kainoa Chu sank a 3-pointer with 4.6 seconds remaining last night to lift 'Iolani to a pulsating 46-43 victory over Kamehameha and the Hawaiian Airlines Boys Basketball State Championship.
A raucous crowd of 5,407 at Stan Sheriff Center was on its feet for the game's final 18 seconds and watched the Raiders finish the regular and postseason with a record of 15-2. It is their first state title since 2006, after a record five straight crowns from 2002 through '06.
The defending state champ Warriors, who played nine games in the past two weeks, ended at 16-5.
"My dad (Ed) used to take me to 'Iolani games since I was in elementary school, and it was always my dream to win a state championship with 'Iolani," said Chu, a 6-foot senior, who finished with a game-high 27 points. "Tonight I had my dream come true."
'Iolani took a 43-41 lead on Chu's backdoor layup with 1:18 remaining, but Kamehameha tied it on Micah Christenson's jumper from just inside the top of the key 15 seconds later.
The Raiders then worked the clock down until 18 seconds remained then called timeout. After their first option — Trevyn Tulonghari flashing backdoor — was denied, Chu came up from the baseline to just left of the top of the key and drained the game-winning 3.
"Trevyn was covered on the backdoor, so I came up through the middle and Andrew Skalman, best point guard in the state, got me the ball," Chu said. "I just let it go, unconscious."
In the game's opening minutes, nothing seemed to drop for Chu or any of the other Raiders.
Kamehameha led, 12-2, after a first period in which 'Iolani made just one of eight field goals, including 0 for 5 from 3-point range. The Raiders also had eight turnovers in the first eight minutes.
"At 12-2, I was just happy the score wasn't worse," said Dean Shimamoto, 'Iolani's first-year head coach. "Our offense was terrible, but our defense was not that bad. In the second quarter, I kept looking up (at the scoreboard) and (the Warriors) were still at 12, and we were creeping our way back in there. I was just happy we didn't let it get away."
'Iolani closed it to 19-15 by halftime, thanks to improved shooting from the field (4 of 7) and Chu's two 3-pointers, including a 22-footer three seconds before the horn.
"I thought we were in control (after the first period), but we just couldn't score after that," Kamehameha coach Jesse Nakanishi said. "Part of that is me, I've got to do a better job of putting our guys in a better position."
The Raiders eventually tied it at 19-19 after starting the second half with Tulonghari's jumper and two free throws by Chu. They took their first lead at 30-29 on Chu's 3-pointer with 3:06 remaining in the third period, but the Warriors answered with a layup by Shane Matayoshi with 1:34 left.
'Iolani took a 35-31 lead into the fourth quarter after Skalman's 3-pointer with 49 seconds remaining followed by his baseline jumper at the buzzer.
"They definitely hit some big shots," Nakanishi said.
The Raiders built the lead to 38-32 after Chu's free throw two minutes into the final period, but Kamehameha clawed back behind Christenson, who scored four straight baskets and finished with 23 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
His last basket was initially registered as a 3-pointer on the scoreboard, but was corrected to a 2-pointer, tying the score at 43-43.
That allowed 'Iolani to work for the final shot.
"A lot of times, like tonight, we don't start out that strong," Chu said. "But we know how to finish games. That's where we're strongest."