ILH Boys Basketball
Spartans repeat as ILH champions


Mon, Feb 11, 2019 @ Maryknoll

Final 1 2 3 4  
Punahou (29-6, 29-6) 5 1415842
Maryknoll (30-2, 30-2) 12 16 12 1555

MAKIKI — This one wasn't left up for debate.

No. 1 Maryknoll built an early 22-5 lead and never looked back as it defeated No. 2 Punahou, 55-42, to win its second straight ILH Division I title Monday night at Tony Sellitto Court at Clarence T. C. Ching Gymnasium.

Payton Grant and backup center Liko Soares each scored 14 points to help the Spartans (27-2 overall, 13-1 ILH D1) claim back-to-back league titles for the first time since 1982.

"It feels awesome, we're going to celebrate after this," Soares said while holding a glass bottle filled with chocolates after the game.

"We got some champagne candy over here. We're going to celebrate and eat this candy."

It was the third time that Maryknoll defeated Punahou (26-5, 11-4) this season, but the first time that the Buffanblu had a full roster. Punahou's Tamatoa Falatea and Kaulana Makaula, both starters for the Buffanblu, alternated turns on football recruiting trips in Punahou's two first round losses to the Spartans.

Grant said the Spartans wanted make sure there were was no doubt after the night.

"That's something we wanted to say. We don't come out here to lose, we want to win. We just came out prepared to play and we're just happy for this."

The key to the Spartans' championship win? Defense.

Maryknoll forced 11 first quarter turnovers and led 12-5 after the first eight minutes. They also held the Buffanblu to just 10-for-37 shooting from the field. Punahou's numbers from beyond the arc look even more abysmal, going 1-for-15 from 3-point range.

"For us, defense win championships," said Grant, who had three steals. "We can score 100 points, but we want to shut you down to (about) 40 points. That was just our mindset going into our game."

But the Buffanblu themselves weren't going to lay down after incurring a 17-point deficit during the second quarter. Punahou, who lost the ILH title last year but came back to win the state title, made it a 28-19 game at the half and trailed by just six, 40-34, heading into the final period of play.

Then Maryknoll started to exercise its will over Punahou. Two buckets in the paint by Marcus Tobin and Kalai Akaka to start the fourth quarter put the Spartans ahead by double digits. The Buffanblu hung around for a bit until Maryknoll broke Punahou's press with a Soares basket to go up 50-38.

Punahou also battled foul trouble in the second half and saw center Duke Clemens foul out of the game with 4:44 left in regulation. When it became evident that the only way for a comeback was to get the Spartans to miss free throws, the Buffanblu eventually waived the white flag and emptied their bench with 2:06 remaining down 52-42.

"Unfortunately it wasn't our day," said Punahou coach Darren Matsuda. "We fought, I like the effort trying to fight back to get into it.

"We just didn't execute very well today, and when we did execute we weren't making shots. I thought we did get some really good looks. They weren't going so I think the frustration set in and then there was a little panic. We didn't do a good job of doing what we do best and being mentally smart, staying in the moment, realizing it's a marathon, not a sprint, and I think we panicked with the big lead. I think we panicked and did some things that were uncharacteristic."

Both teams had already locked up a berth to the Snapple Division I Boys Basketball Championships, a 12-team tourney.

As the ILH runner-up, Punahou will host a first round game next Monday, Feb. 18. Maryknoll will not play another game until the quarterfinals, which starts on Thursday, Feb. 21.

Reach Michael Lasquero at [email protected].



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