Science Hill’s basketball team kept on clicking and delivered some lickings while operating on island time.
The Hilltoppers improved to 16-1 on the season while waltzing through the Merv Lopes Classic in Honolulu last week. Science Hill beat Kamehameha 79-57 in the championship game on New Year’s Eve, which resembled a competitive game after the ’Toppers had won the previous three games by 35, 42 and 35 points.
The Hilltoppers made 42 3-pointers while shooting 42 percent behind the arc. Senior wing Zach Howard averaged 15 points per game en route to MVP honors. Junior guards C.J. Good (18.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 4.0 apg, 3.0 spg) and Will Adams (4.5 apg, 2.8 spg) also made the all-tournament team.
Science Hill got a sizeable contribution from 6-foot-5 senior post Hunter LeVeau, who played in his first games of the season after battling an offseason knee injury and, more recently, a bulging disc in his back.
LeVeau isn’t presently as athletic as he was in previous seasons, but he averaged 10.5 points and 14-15 minutes during the four games. His best game was the championship, when he went 8 of 12 from the field and made 1 of 2 treys for 17 points.
“He played really well in the championship game,” Science Hill coach Ken Cutlip said. “He’s a different player right now and he’s learning how to play, but he can still be effective ... and make us a better team. He’s a very intelligent basketball player.
“The biggest thing he gives us is an inside presence, and that’s what he did in the championship game. He was able to give us a low-post presence in that championship game that we really haven’t had all year.”
Cutlip was pleased with how well his team clicked, particularly with all the potential distractions. Among the trip’s highlights: visiting Pearl Harbor; a luau; a hike to Diamond Head; snorkeling in Diamond Bay; seeing a South Carolina State-Hawaii basketball game.
“The basketball was great, but the thing that was even better was to take these kids to the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor,” Cutlip said. “They got up at 5:30 in the morning and we walked up to Diamond Head in the dark so that they could be up there to see the sunrise at the volcano.”
There were a lot of wide eyes among coaches and players. Eleven of the 12 players hadn’t been snorkeling (Buddy Gosey was the veteran) and five players got on an airplane for the first time when they took the 10-hour flight west.
“It was a very busy trip, but so rewarding in so many ways,” Cutlip said. “The memories these kids will have from this trip — they’ll remember these experiences for the rest of their lives. You see things that are only in the pictures. I mean you’re looking at mountains and volcanos and the ocean. ... But when it was time to play basketball, they focused and played as good as any team I’ve ever had.”
Junior Reed Hayes averaged 11 points and 6.3 rebounds during the tournament and sophomore Tre’Vonn Fields averaged around seven points and eight rebounds.
Among the teams in the tournament, according to Cutlip, were Hawaii’s Nos. 1, 4 and 6-ranked teams. There were also teams from California and Canada, and apparently many of those looked a lot better — or at least bigger — than Science Hill during shootarounds.
“We don’t pass the look test in warm-ups,” Cutlip said. “We didn’t intimidate anybody before the games started. I think we caught some of those teams over there by surprise.”
Science Hill’s fast start has been somewhat of a surprise — certainly the relative ease with which it’s racked up 16 victories in 17 games. Fourteen of the victories were by double-digit margins.
“We’ve had some solid teams, but this team shares the ball better than any team I’ve had,” Cutlip said. “These kids are willing to play any position that they’re asked at any time. And depending on who’s on the floor, one minute you’re the point guard and the next minute you’re the post. ... I’ve never had as much fun coming to the gym.”
Science Hill (4-0, 16-1) returns to Big Eight Conference action tonight when it visits Daniel Boone (1-3, 5-10).
“Their record is no indication of how good they are,” Cutlip said. “They’ve lost a tremendous amount of close games. There are some kids that are starting to step up and shoot the ball well from the perimeter for them.”