I got to see much of the first three nights of the boys state basketball tournament this week, and here are a few observations:
>> Maryknoll, which plays Kalaheo in tonight's final, has some very good athletes, but would be better served setting up and using its great height advantage. Especially with Kaleb Gilmore's ability to extend defenses with his perimeter shooting, the Spartans showed great ability to get 6-9 Tobias Schramm and 6-5 Hyrum Harris open under the basket in their half court offense -- when they are patient. You don't want to totally slow up Gilmore, Josh Burnett and Danny Danbara on the break, but when in doubt they're better served by pulling up and setting up with the big guys.
>> Great crowd at McKinley for the quarterfinals despite torrential rain. Maryknoll fans especially were out in force.
>> Baldwin has been doing the same thing for decades. The Bears come into the tournament not looking super-impressive physically or on paper, but then they go out on the floor and play extremely disciplined and fundamentally sound basketball, and with plenty of heart. They knocked off a physically superior Kapolei team on the first night, and gave Maryknoll all it could handle in the quarterfinal before fading late.
Baldwin hung tough against the top-seeded ILH champs despite the absence of injured 6-foot-3 center Bradley Bowlin. Even with Bowlin, the Bears would've been at a tremendous height disadvantage. But Baldwin compensated as much as it could by getting Maryknoll into an uptempo game, and by defending the rim as strongly as possible with physical play. The Spartans had a lot of trouble at the foul line, and that helped keep Baldwin in the game — as well as Teva Eldridge's game-high 21 points.
In the first round game, Kapolei rallied to close to within one point of Baldwin with two minutes and change left in the first half. The Bears reeled off eight points to end the half. The Bears wizened wizards of coaches, Wayne Gushiken and Jon Garcia, didn't make any apparent huge adjustment. But whatever they told their players worked and the Hurricane never really recovered.
>> Give Konawaena forward Nick Mims plenty of credit for even suiting up for the semifinal game against Maryknoll. Mims suffers from juvenile diabetes and had a seizure early Friday morning. But he still played and led the Cats with 10 points.
>> I watched a lot of the first-round matchup of Pearl City and Moanalua with Chris Hart of the Sports Animals. Chris was rooting for the Chargers because his son, Christian, has been a youth league teammate of some of the Chargers. I'm usually able to put any leaning toward my alma mater on hold, but the more I watched, the more I was impressed with Pearl City's talent and grit. They were one of the smallest teams I've ever seen in a state tournament game, especially after the starting center and forward fouled out. But the Chargers played outstanding defense against the taller Menehune (now there's an oxymoron) by using their quick feet to maintain good position. And they hit their shots. Moanalua, like Maryknoll, is a team that can beat a lot of opponents by setting up in the half court and pounding the ball inside. I'd do that all day with 6-4 forward Eliet Donley, who displayed an impressive array of low post moves, power and finesse.
>> Tonight's final? I will likely miss most of it since I will be covering the University of Hawaii game a couple of miles down the road. But since that starts at five I may finish my column in time to get to the Blaisdell for the end of Maryknoll-Kalaheo.
I'm calling this one close to a tossup, as Kalaheo has a shooter's chance ... and that shooter is a very good one, Josh Ko.