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Prep Football Preview Special
Prep Football Preview
Game of the Week
Brandon Ching | ScoringLiveJanuary 30, 2023, 11:53pm
Mon, Jan 30, 2023 @ Maryknoll
State tournament bound.
No. 1 Maryknoll got all it could handle from No. 3 Punahou as the Spartans held off their cross-street rivals, 37-34, in a thrilling ILH Division I single-elimination tournament final at the Maryknoll Community Center Monday.
Since a 53-43 regular season loss to No. 2 Saint Louis (8-4) on Jan. 24, the Spartans (10-4) won three of their next four games in six nights to clinch the league's second and final state tournament berth.
"It feels good. We had the toughest path. I'm proud of my teammates and we have each others' backs no matter what," junior guard Zion Milare said.
Maryknoll faces Saint Louis at the Clarence T. C. Ching Athletic Center on Wednesday at 6 p.m. for the overall ILH championship and seeded berth. The Spartans have yet to beat the Crusaders this season.
"We're not really thinking about the seed anymore. Obviously we want to win the next game, but the pressure is gone after winning tonight," senior guard Justin Yap said.
The Buffanblu finished as the fourth seed and beat No. 8 Kamehameha-Kapalama, 64-52 in the quarterfinals and Saint Louis, 51-44 in the semifinals to reach the tournament final but end their season with a 7-6 record.
Dillon Kellner led all scorers with 15 points and averaged 14.0 points per game in the post-season tournament run.
Hunter Marumoto led the Spartans with 12 points and Jerome "Rome" Lilio added 11 points. Yap finished with seven points, but had the big assist for the go-ahead bucket and clutch free throws down the stretch.
Yap drove baseline and as Ayndra Uperesa-Thomas came to help, he dished it to Fabian Camacho on the backside for the go-ahead basket, 35-34, with 50.4 seconds left.
"I was planning to either shoot it and luckily I found Fabian. If it's going to go down, it's got to be us seniors. Luckily Fabian was down there," Yap said. "I trust my big guys, when they're open I pass it to them."
Punahou got the ball back, but turned it over as Marumoto came up with the steal, but he missed the front-end of the one-and-one free throw with 44.3 seconds remaining. Maryknoll had fouls to give and Punahou inbounded from the sideline. Noah Macapulay's floater hit the front rim, got his own miss and he passed it to Evan Porter but Porter's pass intended for Kellner went awry for a backcourt violation.
Yap was fouled with 11.1 ticks and hit both double bonus free throws to give Maryknoll a three point lead. The Spartans shot 4-for-6 in the period and finished 9-for-14 (64.3 percent) overall for the game.
"That felt amazing. All my coaches and teammates work so hard. A chance at states and keep on playing feels really good," Yap said.
The Buffanblu went the length of the court and Uperesa-Thomas had an open look from the left wing but could not connect and Marumoto secured the rebound.
"The final rebound was crazy. There was still like five seconds left and he got a really good look. Everyone was yelling and I needed to get this board or else they're going to have another opportunity to shoot," Marumoto said.
"I'm relieved now. This game could've turned so many different directions. We're lucky that we had some guys making key plays and we had key steals down the stretch. We hit some crucial free throws down the stretch. We practice these kinds of situations all the time, we hope it comes out the way we planned it," Maryknoll coach Kelly Grant said.
Maryknoll jumped out to a 10-0 lead before Kellner got the Buffanblu on the scoreboard with back-to-back buckets. Lilio scored eight of his 11 in the period as the Spartans took a 14-7 lead going into the second.
"We had some set plays for him to catch the ball in the paint. We cannot always go to our three guards for scoring. We tried to put the opponent to sleep a little bit. Fabian is usually shooting that shot, but he had to play the three so the next person up was Rome so he was hitting some shots there," Grant said.
"We feed off our energy a lot so that momentum helped us," Milare said. "Even though we break down, we can feed off our crowd and get pumped and hyped."
Tucker Lam hit a 3-pointer to jumpstart the perimeter shooting and the Buffanblu hit four in the quarter. Kekai Burnett could not complete the 3-point play, but Jon Yoshimoto and Dash Watanabe hit consecutive triples to give Punahou their first lead of the game. Yoshimoto canned another triple from the corner but Marumoto answered to tie the game at 21.
"We stayed in a zone defense to eliminate our fouls due to our foul trouble. Because we have foul trouble, (Micah) Kubo was out with a concussion, and we're short-staffed, we had to go with a zone and live with it," Grant said.
Lilio scored his 10th point and Marumoto split a pair of free throws for a 24-21 lead at halftime.
Kellner hit a long jumper and scored in transition to put Punahou up, 27-24. Marumoto tied the game at 27 with 1:30 left for the Spartans' first field goal, but Kellner swished another jumper. Marumoto drove to the rim and tied the game at 29 heading into the fourth.
"Big rebounds, big steals, when he goes to the basket, he's so under control. He's long and it's hard to block his shot and he's crafty when he goes to the basket," Grant said of Marumoto.
Yap hit a pull up jumper on the baseline to open the quarter. Kellner reclaimed the lead with a 3-pointer from the right wing and Macapulay stole the ball and got to Kellner in transition to make it, 34-31 with over 2:23 to go. Marumoto made the front-end of the one-and-one and missed the second. Lilio got the rebound and was fouled. He made the first attempt and his second attempt was good to tie, but it was waived off by a lane violation with 1:59 left and trailed, 34-33.
Maryknoll swept the season series against Punahou, 46-39 on Jan. 3, 42-38 on Jan. 14, and tonight's contest.
The Buffanblu were seeking their first state tournament appearance since 2019.
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