ILH Boys Basketball
Le Jardin runs away from Hawaii Baptist to reach state tournament


Fri, Feb 16, 2024 @ Le Jardin

Final 1 2 3 4  
Hawaii Baptist (6-10, 14-17) 14 8142561
Le Jardin (11-5, 22-12) 22 13 16 2879
J. Swirsky 18 pts  1 3pm  0/1 FTs
E. Shibuya 26 pts  8/10 FTs

KAILUA — After a one-year absence, the Bulldogs are back in the state tournament. 

Jackson Swirsky scored 18 points to lead four players in double figures and Le Jardin pulled away from Hawaii Baptist for a 79-61 win in the final game of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu Division II single-elimination tournament Friday night. 

A crowd of about 350 fans at Le Jardin's Charles B. Wang Gymnasium saw the Bulldogs (11-5) claim the league's second and final berth in next week's Heide & Cook/HHSAA Division II Boys Basketball State Championships. 

Le Jardin and league champion University Lab will represent the ILH in the eight-team bracket that gets underway Thursday. 

"I didn't know if we'd ever get here," Bulldogs' first-year coach Doug Porter said. "I'm really proud of this team and the way they've come along, I really am."

The season is over for the Eagles (6-10), who trailed throughout Friday's contest. 

Swirsky, a 6-foot-5 senior forward, scored 13 of his points after halftime. He shot just 2 of 8 from the field in the first two quarters, but went 6 of 11 the rest of the way. 

"Honestly, I didn't really feel like I was in the groove," Swirsky said. "I come out to play no matter the crowd, no matter the circumstances, I always come with the same mentality — it's just another game and although this game is really big, to me, we just keep the mentality, we just keep playing through the adversity and keep that mentality of ‘you want to win, you want it more than the other team.' "

Shane Kilty scored nine of his 15 points in the first half, Giovanni Olivia tallied eight of his 13 in the final quarter and Laakea Kamahele chipped in 12 points off the bench for the Bulldogs. 

Porter lauded the collective effort of his players to overcome foul trouble for Kilty and fellow-senior Kai Kimhan. Both players fouled out in the fourth quarter. 

"Other guys picked it up and Jackson just took over in the second half — he's a gamer, tremendous leader, great kid, just really a character guy — and believe it or not, I wasn't that worried because we got other guys. We've got a real tight seven-man rotation, but I got a couple other guys on the bench that play a lot and I'm okay with going to them," Porter said. 

Le Jardin shot a blistering 50 percent (33 of 66) from the field to negate an 8-of-17 night from the free throw line. 

The Bulldogs opened the game with a 7-0 run that was spurred by Swirsky's 3-pointer from the right corner just 22 seconds in. They made nine of 18 first-quarter field goals to take a 22-14 lead after the opening quarter. 

Keaka Bennett hit a 3-pointer from the left corner to stretch it to a 33-20 lead with 2:04 left in the first half. Swirsky drained a 14-foot jumper from the baseline just seconds before the intermission to send his team into the break with a 35-22 advantage. 

Le Jardin quickly opened it up to a 41-23 lead about two minutes into the second half after a Swirsky bucket from about 12 feet away following a jump stop in transition. However, HBA answered with a 12-4 run that was capped by a Devin Corpuz 3-pointer from the right corner to cut it to 45-35 at the 3:49 mark of the third quarter. 

The Bulldogs had an answer of their own with a 6-1 run to close out the quarter. Swirsky found Beckson Pierce under the basket with a no-look pass and Pierce converted the easy bucket to give his team a 51-36 lead after three quarters. 

An Olivia basket gave Le Jardin its largest lead at 64-40 with 4:42 to play. 

"Basketball is a game of runs and they went on their run, it got a little hairy there for a second, but we answered really well. We ran throughout the game and we kind of wore ‘em down and the last run was just a finishing goal for us," Swirsky said.

The Bulldogs shot 12 of 19 from the field in the final eight minutes. 

Eli Shibuya led all scorers with 26 points in the loss. The HBA senior went 9 of 18 from the field and 8 of 10 from the free throw line. 

Mathew Shigetani scored nine of his 14 points after halftime and Colton Wong added nine points for the Eagles, who shot 40 percent (22 of 55) from the field. 

Both teams were 5-of-20 shooting from the 3-point line. 

Le Jardin won all three meetings against HBA this season by an average of 14 points per contest. 

"They play really hard," Porter said of the Eagles. 

"Eli is a tremendous player and it wasn't easy. All three games weren't easy, so yeah, it was nice to get that last one," he added. 

Le Jardin took advantage of its distinct height advantage on both ends of the court. It tallied 14 second-chance points off of 17 offensive rebounds. 

"Our length is a big factor. I mean, we were able to affect a lot of shots, if we weren't able to block them, we were able to affect a lot of layups and that led to missed layups and that changed the game," Swirsky said. 

The Bulldogs will be making just their third all-time appearance in a state tournament. Porter credited the senior quartet of Swirsky, Kilty, Olivia and Kimhan for buying into his system and setting the standard for the rest of the team. 

"My system is a little unorthodox, you might say. I've heard it called ‘controlled mayhem, organized chaos,' but so it takes a little while to learn how we're gonna play — because we play pressure basketball — but man, once they got it, they took off and we have four really solid senior starters, so I told them that ‘this is our year, you guys,' " Porter said. 

Swirsky was a sophomore when the Bulldogs last qualified for the state tournament in 2022. They missed out on states a year ago. 

"It feels amazing. I mean, it feels like nothing I've ever felt before. I think the culture Doug and our team's made at the school, really, I think is going to affect for years to come and I think we got a good program building. We got four seniors this year, we got a lot of sophomores coming up and I think, yeah, look out for us," Swirsky said. 

Le Jardin has won six consecutive games and 11 of its last 13 entering the state tournament. 

HBA, which was coming off of a 60-42 win over tournament No. 1 seed Damien Wednesday, was seeking its third straight trip to states. 

After the conclusion of Friday night's game, the state tournament bracket was revealed by the HHSAA. Le Jardin will play the top seed and defending state champion Kohala in a quarterfinal Thursday, 7 p.m. at Kaimuki. 

In other quarterfinal matchups, Pahoa will face third-seeded Seabury Hall and Aiea will play second-seeded University Lab at Kalani's Earl C. Holmer Gymnasium Thursday at 5 and 7 p.m., respectively. Fifth-seeded Kaimuki and fourth-seeded Kapaa will meet in the 5 p.m. quarterfinal at Kaimuki Thursday. 

Reach Kalani Takase at [email protected].

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