Defense Keeps Hurricanes On Top Going Into OIA Tourney
By Jack Danilewicz
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This season was one to remember for the Kapolei boys basketball team, which took a school-record 11game win streak into its OIA Red finale with Mililani last weekend.
Even so, the Hurricanes know their ascension will be solidified further with a strong showing at the OIA tournament over the next two weeks not to mention a first-ever bid for the upcoming Division I state tournament.
Coach Gary Ellison remains rooted to the present, despite the current excitement around the program. He has been preaching the one-game-at-a-time approach all season. “Once we get past one, we look at who we play next,” he said.
A number of factors have led to Kapolei’s run this winter, with cohesiveness and defensive play at the top of the list. “They like to play with each other, and they like to hang out together that’s how it was three years ago (the school’s last winning basketball season),” Ellison said. “I’m happy for the kids. They deserve the season they’re having. They’re hungry for it.”
Defensively, Kapolei held seven of its first 10 opponents to under 31 points. In a league where zone defense has been the predominant scheme, it has also transitioned from being a zone-oriented team in past years to playing mainly man-to-man defense.
“At the beginning of the season we thought about it, and we decided to play man-to-man. We’ve been explaining the concepts since day one, especially how to defend on the help side, and I think the kids are starting to enjoy it. They like helping each other out, and they understand more about playing together.”
Kiatrell Zachary and Joshua Farias have been the defensive leaders to date, tracking the opposition’s top scorers. In the post, that job has belonged to Chris Dillard.
“Chris has been really good (defensively) in the post,” Ellison said of Dillard, who averaged 11.0 points per game during the season. “He’s also been our most consistent scorer. We’ve given (Joshua and Kiatrell) the task of guarding the other team’s top scorer, and we like to have one of them on the other team’s point guard to try to tire him out.
“Most of our points come from our defense. If we can get the other team to turn the ball over, it helps, and we’ve been lucky so far. Defense wins championships. If you play good defense, you have a chance.”
Kapolei was to know of its seeding for the OIA tournament over the weekend, when the regular season ended. The Hurricanes expect to see more manto-man defense at the tournament the preferred scheme among East schools.
“We’ve practiced a lot against the man-to-man, knowing the East schools mostly play man,” Ellison said. “That’s why the Pearl City game (a 40-31 Kapolei win Jan. 10) was a good game for us. They’re a good defensive team, and they played man-to-man the whole game, and they do some switching.”
Kapolei was to learn of its OIA seeding (and first opponent) after press time. The top five finishers in the OIA earn the league’s berths for the DI state tournament, which runs Feb. 22-25.
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