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Prep Football Preview Special
Prep Football Preview
Game of the Week
Kalani Takase | ScoringLiveFebruary 21, 2020, 10:50pm
Fri, Feb 21, 2020 @ Stan Sheriff
MANOA — And still.
Liko Soares scored 16 points and Sage Tolentino had 10 points and 16 rebounds to help No. 2 Maryknoll claim its second consecutive Snapple/HHSAA Division I Boys Basketball State Championship with its 46-33 win over No. 1 Kamehameha Friday night.
The Spartans (15-3) recorded their fourth victory in five days, capped off by their upset of the top-seeded Warriors (15-1) before a Stan Sheriff Center crowd of 2,917 spectators.
It was the fifth time that the teams faced off this season. Maryknoll won the first time — a preseason matchup back on Dec. 14 — but Kamehameha took all three games during the Interscholastic League of Honolulu season.
Despite the recent results, the Spartans didn't see themselves as the underdog Friday night.
"I felt like we were very confident going into this game," said Tolentino, a sophomore center. "Even though we lost three times to Kamehameha, I think that we just had to keep on going and we had a good shot at winning states and we did."
Tolentino, who stands 7-feet tall, was certainly a large part of that. He grabbed five boards on the offensive glass Friday and helped Maryknoll dominate the rebounding battle, 40 to 21.
"We did an excellent job rebounding," Spartans coach Kelly Grant said. "The whole tournament our keys were to take charges and to control the boards, so I don't know how many charges we (drew) in those four games, but we had a lot and then today Sage was huge with 16 boards and three blocks."
The Warriors were hit with a major setback in the hours leading up to the game, when it was discovered that senior forward Christmas Togiai would not be available.
Togiai, a fourth-year starter and All-Hawaii First Team selection a year ago, was averaging 14.1 points per game this season. He went down late in Thursday night's semifinal win over Kahuku, clutching his right knee. A doctor's visit early Friday revealed a torn ACL.
"We found out probably about 3:30 this afternoon," Kamehameha coach Larry Park said.
Park noted that it was fellow senior Kordel Ng, a longtime close friend of Togiai, who delivered the unfortunate news to the rest of the team.
"Christmas met us at our walk-through a little bit later and he talked to the group and he led our prayer in the locker room, but Christmas and Kordel are so unbelievable as leaders. They're just such great people and great leaders and they handled it unbelievably well, the whole group. But they followed their leader and they played their hearts out," Park said.
As his team celebrated on the court, Grant took time during a postgame interview to express empathy for Togiai's hard-luck situation.
"I cannot even fathom what coach Park had to go through the night before having to figure what he's going to do with his star player coming out of the game. That's just a worst nightmare as a coach," Grant said.
"I pray for (Togiai). I'm really sorry that he had to go through that. I mean, he had a tremendous career, but it is what it is. With him not being there, it makes a big difference. I mean, he's the center, he's the focal point on offense, he's the focal point on defense, he's the team leader, he's everything for that team and ever since he was a freshman he's been in that position, so the stress wasn't as much knowing that he wasn't playing," Grant added.
Without Togiai in the lineup, the Warriors struggled mightily shooting the ball. They were just 23.4 percent (11 of 47) from the field and 14.8 percent (4 of 27) on 3-pointers.
"First half we had a hard time rebounding and Christmas is a tough rebounder also on both sides of the floor," Park said. "Last year he averaged a double-double, points and rebounds, and I think this year he's probably pretty close to that and we just had to knock a few more shots down. We tried to play a fast pace game and use our bench and I think they gave everything they could for each other and I'm just so proud of the effort."
Kamehameha held its only lead early on, when EJ Kapihe drained a 3-pointer from the left corner to put his team up, 5-3, a few minutes in. However, Maryknoll went on a 9-0 run that included five straight points from center Liko Soares, who had all eight of his team's points in the opening quarter.
The run culminated with a Tolentino putback to make it a 12-5 lead for the Spartans with 5:37 left in the first half.
Maryknoll was ahead 28-16 at halftime and led by as many as 16 following a pair of free throws by Tolentino with 1:12 left in the game.
The Spartans shot 16 of 21 from the free-throw line, while the Warriors were 7 of 16.
Tolentino was a perfect 4 for 4 at the charity stripe — all of it coming in the fourth quarter. Maryknoll made 12 of 14 from the line in the final stanza.
Grant was especially proud of Soares, one of three fourth-year players for the Spartans, for gritting it out despite a torn meniscus and torn cartilage in his right knee. Soares, who will undergo surgery now that the season is over, was a perfect 7 for 7 from he field in 21 minutes of game time.
"The second quarter he could barely get up the court so I was asking him, ‘are you OK?,' and he said, ‘no, but I'm going to wrap this up and I'm going to try and play,' I mean, he can barely walk now (during post game), but he's a warrior," Grant said.
Maryknoll overcame an uncharacteristically poor shooting night from senior guard Niko Robben (13.6 points per game). He was 0 for 9 from the field and scored just three points, but still managed seven rebounds and two assists.
"He's been our go-to guy the whole season. It's tough when the other team defends you — it's the same thing like how we defended Kordel, we were trying to take him away — they were trying to take away Niko," Grant said. "I mean, he comes down the floor and he's getting banged by two or three guys and it wears on you and he had to go through that for four straight games, but other guys stepped up and that's the way it is."
Noah Furtado contributed seven points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals and Justin Yap chipped in seven points off the bench for the Spartans.
Ng led the Warriors with 14 points, but shot just 4 of 19 from the field, including 3 of 13 from beyond the arc.
Kamehameha was held to its lowest scoring output all season.
Tolentino was selected as the tournament's most outstanding player. He was joined on the all-tournament team by teammates Robben and Soares, as well as Kamehameha's Ng and Togiai and Damien's Jake Holtz.
It was the 22nd time that the state championship game featured an all-ILH matchup and the first meeting between the Spartans and Warriors in a state final since 1976.
Kamehameha was seeking its first state crown since 2011. It is now 68-29 all-time in state tournament games and 7-7 in championship games.
Maryknoll improved to 34-11 in its state tournament history, including a 3-7 mark in title games. It is the third state championship in program history.
Snapple/HHSAA Division I All-Tournament Team as selected by the HHSAA and media
Jake Holtz, Damien Kordel Ng, Kamehameha Niko Robben, Maryknoll Liko Soares, Maryknoll Christmas Togiai, Kamehameha
Most Outstanding Player: Sage Tolentino, Maryknoll
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