At 6-foot-4, Hawaii Prep’s Jovan Crnic towers over most of his defenders. But his skill set, court vision and competitive spirit stand out more than his height, making him one of the best point guards in the state this year.
In simple terms, Crnic understands how to play the game of basketball, and he showcased his all-around abilities on Wednesday night in a 41-37 win over host Waiakea in the first round of the Waiakea/Keaau boys basketball preseason tournament.
Crnic, a senior with college potential, had a game-high 19 points to go along with six assists and eight rebounds.
Waiakea led 30-25 after three quarters, but HPA picked up its defensive intensity to start the fourth period.
Juniors Kalan Camero and Kenji Stinson both scored on layups off transition to tie the score at 33.
Then Crnic took over.
He hit the second of two free throws to put Ka Makani ahead to stay with 4 minutes, 16 seconds left before scoring on a layup on HPA’s next possession to make it 36-33. Crnic then made three trips to the charity stripe, making 5 of 6 free throws, including two that gave HPA a 41-35 lead with 6 seconds remaining.
Crnic was the only HPA player who scored in double figures. He was HPA’s focal point with the ball, whether in transition when he found open shooters or in the half-court sets when he attacked off the dribble.
“Jovan did some good things,” HPA co-coach Fred Wawner said. “We were trying to get out in transition to get some easy baskets. I thought he did a nice job running the floor, and we missed some shots that hopefully we’ll make as the season moves ahead.”
HPA’s other co-coach, Dave Huntington, credited his inside defenders, seniors Kama DeSilva and Sefo Rocha-Tufaga, with containing Waiakea’s Lucas St. George and Owen Sandstrom.
“It’s only the first game, but I thought we did some good things defensively tonight and rebounded pretty well,” the coach said. “Our post guys aren’t very big, but we’ll work hard on their post technique, and hopefully they’ll become more efficient inside.”
Junior guard Bryson Ita, who hit five 3-pointers, led the Warriors with 15 points. His long-range shooting in the first half helped Waiakea erase chip away at an 11-0 HPA lead.
Ka Makani led 22-15 on DeSilva’s layup with 5:40 left in the third period. Then Ita drilled three straight 3-pointers against HPA’s zone to give Waiakea a 24-22 advantage with 3:06 remaining in the quarter.
Maikai Gahan added eight points, and St. George had six for the Warriors.
HPA 14 5 6 16 — 41
Waiakea 7 8 15 7 — 37
Kalaheo 58, Hilo 43: Josh Ko and Derick Morgan each scored 15 points, and Kulei Zuttermeister had 13 to lead the defending Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II champion Mustangs to a win over the Vikings.
Junior Jalen Carvalho led Hilo with 15 points.
Kalaheo led 29-22 in the first half. But the Mustangs then outscored the Vikings 28-21 to pull away in the second half.
Kalaheo 18 11 11 17 — 58
Hilo 13 8 8 13 — 43
Honokaa 50, Waiakea (2) 37: Alika Alip scored 15 points, and Keanu Freitas added 11 to lead the Dragons.
Jeffrey Tomas had 11, and Kyler Kua-Ramires had nine for the Warriors.
Waiakea 2 8 6 11 12 — 37
Honokaa 4 12 15 17 — 50
Kealakehe 54, St. Joseph 13: Malu Akiona had 12 points, and Deion Utrera had 11 to lead the Waveriders past the Cardinals.
Kaena Nahoopii paced St. Joseph with six points.
The Waveriders led 20-0 after the first period and 37-4 at the intermission.