ILH Boys Basketball
Robben lifts Maryknoll past Damien for state berth


Fri, Jan 31, 2020 @ Maryknoll

Final 1 2 3 4  
Damien (8-7, 18-16) 6 791941
Maryknoll (11-3, 31-4) 9 13 10 1345
N. Robben 20 pts  1 3pm  3/3 FTs
J. Holtz 19 pts  1 3pm  4/6 FTs

MAKIKI — Niko Robben poured in 20 points and sank two clutch free throws in the end as No. 2 Maryknoll withstood a fourth quarter rally from No. 8 Damien to win, 45-41, in a critical Interscholastic League of Honolulu Division I contest at Clarence T. C. Ching Gymnasium Friday.

With the win, the Spartans improve to 9-2 and in the process locks up a coveted state tournament berth and will have a chance to defend their state title.

"It was really important for us because we knew this was the game to get us into states. We all came into the mindset like three hours before this that we were going to win," Robben said.

Maryknoll faces Wilder Avenue rival No. 4 Punahou (7-4) to close out the regular season on Saturday, Feb. 1, but that game will not have impact on either team's seeding. Tipoff is scheduled at 7:30 p.m.

The Spartans' next game will be on Monday, Feb. 10 and faces the winner of the Feb. 8 matchup that will be determined.

The Monarchs conclude the ILH regular season with a 6-6 mark and will open the postseason single elimination tournament as the fourth seed and will host fifth seed Saint Louis on Thursday, Feb. 6.

Damien trailed by 10 entering the fourth quarter until Kenneth Mitchell Jr. (11 points off the bench) converted a 3-point play and Jake Holtz, who scored a team-high 19 points made a pair of free throws. Noah Furtado's layup off Liko Soares' assist put Maryknoll back up six, but Bryce Forbes cut that in half with a triple. Holtz got the Monarchs within two twice until Soares put up a reverse layup for a 43-39 lead.

Holtz had a chance to cut the deficit in half on a drive, but he was called for traveling with 24.4 seconds remaining. Sage Tolentino missed the first of a one-and-one free throw with 14.7 seconds left.

After a scramble for a loose ball, Mitchell Jr. put it back in with 2.6 seconds. Damien's Tino Atonio pushed Robben in the corner near the Monarchs' bench and after officials conferred, the foul was changed to an intentional foul. Robben calmly hit both foul shots and Maryknoll inbounded the ball to end the game.

"Just going up to the line, if I made one that would make the game hard to lose and if I made two it would be over and plus we got the ball back," Robben said of closing up the game.

"I've been here for nine years and it happened to me like three times. It finally happened to us twice against Iolani and another team where we were trying to foul and it went from a common foul to an intentional foul so I'm happy Eric (Morales) saw that it was two hands and he wasn't going for the ball. I know they (Damien) were upset that they changed the call, but it was the right call," Maryknoll coach Kelly Grant explained of the final sequence.

Maryknoll got off to a rocky start as the team picked up seven fouls by the 1:33 mark in the first quarter and sent Damien to the free throw line.

"That's how we want to play, hats off to Damien, they attacked the basket. We have to play smarter. They (officials) were calling it tight today, so when they call tight, we have to make adjustments," Grant said.

The Monarchs' zone defense slowed down the Spartans and forced some perimeter looks, but Robben managed to give Maryknoll a 6-4 lead off a 3-pointer and then converted the 3-point play to make it, 9-6 heading into the second quarter.

"We practiced it the past two days," Grant said of preparing for Damien's zone defense. "Being able to watch film and see their movements, I wasn't sure where the trap guys were coming from. After playing them one time, the guys can look opposite or look inside, I thought we did a decent job."

"They were playing condensed and stopped any penetration so it was a matter of our team moving, being unselfish, getting it to our bigs and driving to the lane and finishing," Robben said.

The Spartans started pulling away in the second quarter and took a 20-8 lead on a 11-2 run following a basket from Soares and Justin Yap added a 3-pointer from the left corner. Holtz made a 3-pointer to get the Monarchs under double digits as Damien trailed, 22-13 at the half.

"We were affected when Sage got the third foul, not sure where it was. It affects our defensive schemes and now we're putting guys in different positions but we haven't played that way and it became uncomfortable," Grant said as foul trouble affected his team.

"Our bench stepped up with Logan (Dias) and everyone who came off the bench to fill the roles. We all stepped up and it was a team effort and win," Robben said.

Robben got to the rim to give Maryknoll their largest lead of the game at 13 as the Spartans continued to lead by double digits throughout the quarter. Forbes brought the game to single digits off a pair of free throws, however Robben answered as he used the glass on a drive just before the buzzer sounded.

"He's good attacking the basket with his left or right hand. Because he's so strong, we teach to get to two feet. When you get to two feet you're always strong and stable with the ball. Sometimes its to a fault, when officials see him getting to two feet, even though he's getting fouled, he's so strong," Grant said of Robben.

Reach Brandon Ching at [email protected].

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