The Maryknoll players were all in super-high spirits soon after their ILH championship-clinching 55-42 home victory over Punahou on Monday night.
Intense coach Kelly Grant was seen relaxing — imagine that? — in a chair while the Spartans used a ladder to do the net-cutting.
Two titles in a row. That doesn’t happen very often at the private Catholic school. Actually, it hasn’t been done since coach Tony Sellitto did the trick in the early 1980s. Sellitto, fittingly, was in the house to watch it. He had already left the building, though, by the time the net came down.
“I’m so happy right now,” wrecking-ball center Liko Soares said. “I want to go celebrate with my teammates.”
Soares scored 13 points in the middle, as did Payton Grant, to lead the offense.
“Liko is tough,” coach Grant said. “Sometimes, it’s tough to get him on the floor. We usually rotate him with Marcus Tobin, but when Marcus gets in foul trouble, Liko is in there. When Liko is on the floor, he is almost unstoppable once he touches the ball near the basket.”
The Spartans’ calling card is defense.
“We’re really good at what we do defensively,” the coach said. “It’s a luxury to coach this kind of team.”
The next stop for both top-ranked Maryknoll and No. 2 Punahou is the state Division I tournament.
“We tell the boys that the ILH championship is for me and the coaching staff,” Grant said. “We prepare for the entire season and try to beat the ILH. They know this one is for us. Anything past that, the state, is for them. We don’t know who we’re playing. It’s day-before kind of preparation. The kids have a lot of knowledge and we put a lot of stuff on their plates. We’ve got to make sure that they’re at their high peak and jelling when we get to the state tournament.”
Guard Makoto Kamata verified that his team is looking down the road at getting that big one. If the Spartans (13-1) can do it, it will be the first state title since 1984 — 35 years ago.
“It’s so great to come back and win (the ILH) this year,” he said. “We didn’t win states last year, so we want to win it this year.”
The Buffanblu (11-4) know they’ve got things to work on.
“We didn’t come through and do our part tonight,” Punahou’s Tamatoa Falatea said. “Maryknoll played better than us and they deserved that win. We need to take better care of the ball, take better care that every possession has worth and improve our team chemistry.”
Jakob Kimura and Peyton Macapulay scored nine points apiece to lead the Buffanblu.
The two teams could meet again, if they can both advance to the state-title game.
“We really gotta work on us,” Punahou coach Darren Matsuda said. “We’re still not in sync. When you play a really good team like Maryknoll, it shows. All the things you cut corners on or whatnot — because we haven’t been sharp — it shows. We have a week to sharpen it up and get better.”