Press Pass
Radford's defense key part of thrilling OT win




Manutagi Seei got all the press and attention that comes with hitting a game-winning shot — and rightly so — but to be sure, it was Radford's defense that even gave the Rams a chance to be there at the end of Saturday night's thrilling 38-37 overtime victory over previously-unbeaten Leilehua.

With the win, the Rams inched closer to securing a top-two finish in the Oahu Interscholastic Association's Division I West standings and the first-round bye in the 12-team league tournament that comes with it.

Two nights after suffering its first loss this season, Radford rebounded with a big time road win, buoyed by its work on the defensive end of the floor.

The Rams mostly utilized a 2-3 zone defense to hold the Mules to a season-low scoring output.

Leilehua entered the game averaging 55.6 points per game.

"We mix it up (defensively), but for Leilehua, you know, they got their offense down and I just felt like tonight we were going to live and die with the zone," Radford coach Charles Chong said.

The game was largely a defensive struggled, with the teams combining for 44 turnovers — 27 of them by Radford alone. However, the Mules failed to take advantage the Rams' ball-handling woes, shooting just 32.5 percent (14 of 43) on field goals, including 3 of 14 (21.4 percent) on 3-pointers.

Leilehua coach Elroy Dumlao credited Radford's defense for forcing tough shots.

"They had some pretty good defense and they closed it out pretty good. We tried to move the ball, tried to come with different sets and things to try and loosen up Asia (Castillo) and (Kaylen Kamelamela), but hats off to Radford and what they did. They mixed it up a little bit, they came out in man, they ran their matchup (zone). We tried our best to try and get the shots off," Dumlao said. "We didn't make the plays, they made the plays and it was a great job and a good win for them."

Dumlao said he expected a low-scoring game after Radford held Mililani to 26 total points in a five-point loss Thursday night.

"I kind of heard what happened with them at Mililani, where it was a battle with the match-ups and the defensive schemes — doing one thing, doing the other, countering whatever — it wasn't really a running game, it was a slow pace and I kind of expected that," Dumlao said.

Kamelamela, the Mules' leading scorer was held to her second-lowest point total this season. The senior made her two of her first three 3-point attempts, but missed six of her next seven from beyond the arc. Slowing Kamelamela down was definitely a focal point for the Rams.

"We were just trying to shut down their two or three best guards and make everyone else try and score," Seei said.

Radford also got the job done on the boards, out-rebounding Leilehua, 32 to 23. Freshman forward Angel Assah collected 13 rebounds and Kayla Gaoteote added seven boards in the win.

With a win over Nanakuli Tuesday — and a Mililani victory over Leilehua that same evening — the Rams can clinch a first-round bye in the OIA tournament, which would put them through to the quarterfinals. A win there would secure their first Division I state tournament berth in three seasons — but its not something they are taking for granted.

"This win and what it does for us with playoff seeding is huge, but you know, we had that last year and we still didn't get into states, so we've still got a lot of work to do," Chong said. "We're still finding ourselves."

Meanwhile, for the Mules and their standout guard, Kamelamela, Tuesday's regular-season finale against the seventh-ranked Trojans (9-0) represents a chance at redemption.

Leilehua turned it over 17 times against Radford Saturday, but none most costly than a carrying violation by Kamelamela with her team holding a two-point lead with 17.2 seconds left. The senior was visibly distraught after the game, even through the Mules' senior night festivities.

Dumlao said if he expects Kamelamela to come back strong Tuesday.

"Oh yeah, definitely. Good players bounce back, good teams bounce back and I told her back there, ‘Hey, you can have that bad game now. We don't wanna have that in the championship, or advancing into the OIAs,' " Dumlao said. "I told her don't hang her head, I mean, it's a good balance of having good games and bad games. We've been constantly having pretty good games and coming down in this one, unfortunately it was some bad timing against a team like Radford, who just came off a big loss at Mililani, so it showed that they're a good team, too, because they bounced back and hopefully we can do that Tuesday."

Dumlao, who took a one-year coaching hiatus last season, is hoping history will repeat itself. Back in the 2015-16 season, the Rams beat the Mules in the regular season, but Leilehua went on to capture the OIA championship.

"That's why I told them that it's not over yet. It's something to learn from," Dumlao said. "Hats off to Radford. I mean, they made the plays when they had to and we didn't make our plays, but we battled and that was the main thing. I told them, ‘Let's move forward. There's nothing we can do now and it's water under the bridge, so let's go back to practice, see what we can do with Mililani and then we'll look forward to what happens in the playoffs.' "



Reach Kalani Takase at [email protected].


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