In so many ways, the Hawaii Baptist Eagles were up to the challenge when they hosted No. 3 St. Francis on Friday night.
What the Eagles didn’t know is how hot the visitors would be from 3-point range — 15-for-26! — in an 87-54 win over HBA.
>> The visiting Saints had a modest 29-27 rebounding edge. St. Francis grabbed nine offensive rebounds while the Eagles had a whopping 12 offensive caroms. But the numbers are slightly skewed. St. Francis shot a sizzling 54 percent from the field, missing only 27 shots. That’s nine offensive boards on 27 misses, That’s a healthy rate of 33 percent. HBA had trouble against the Saints’ mix of defenses and shot 35 percent. The hustling Eagles got those 12 offensive rebounds on 37 misses, or just above 32 percent.
>> The dangerous Eagles got 24 3-point shots in the air. St. Francis finished with 26. Playing at home, HBA’s chances with that kind of number would be pretty good against most Division II teams. Of course, the Saints are not an ordinary team. They challenged shots, using their depth and length. Defenders like Manoa Kuali‘i-Moe and Bryce Nishida constantly kept physical contact on HBA”s leading scorers, Micah Mitchell and Max Weimken.
>> HBA’s speed in transition is excellent, but the lack of consistent success from the arc continues. Mitchell was 3-for-6 from deep, but Wiemken struggled (1-for-7) and the rest of the Eagles were a combined 2-for-11. With defenses clamping down more and more on Mitchell, the open looks will be there. Opportunities will be numerous.
Mitchell didn’t get untracked until later in the game and finished 3-for-6 from the 3-point arc. He scored 22 points, but most of that came in the second half with St. Francis already up by 18 at the break. Mitchell shot 2-for-7 from the field in the first half. For the game he was 8-for-13.
Weimken, who has been superb in this junior season as a stretch-5, worked hard for 10 points and seven boards, but shot just 4-for-13. He was effective sometimes attacking the rim. That’ll be something to watch more for as defenses take Mitchell away with plenty of help defense.
St. Francis was sizzling, shooting 57 percent from the arc, easily one of the top team shooting performances of the season. That came on a relatively quiet night for leading scorer Kameron Ng. The junior was hounded by HBA’s help defense and even most of his on-ball defenders, including Mitchell. Ng was 1-for-9 to start the game before making his last three shots of the first half. The good news for the Saints is that even if the state’s leading scorer (26 points per game coming into Friday) seems to be slightly fatigued at midseason, 1) that’s actually normal for most alpha-role scorers at some point in the year, and 2) he dished out nine assists.
The biggest beneficiary was Nishida, who launched 11 3-pointers and splashed six of them in a scintillating effort. He finished with 22 points to lead a balanced offense. The vast arsenal was impressive: 15 points for Kuali‘i-Moe, 14 for Jett Tanuvasa (4-for-4 from deep), nine for reserve guard Titus Liu (three treys), and a solid eight points (4-for-6) and 10 rebounds from 6-foot-3 Boris Vukovic. When they pushed the ball, Kordel Ng was highly effective with seven assists.
Kameron Ng finished with 14 points and a team-high five steals to go with the nine dimes.
“He made that adjustment, getting other people involved,” Saints coach Ron Durant said. “He knew who was hot.”
Nishida couldn’t even remember the last time he made as many 3s. He said his personal best is seven treys in a varsity game, though he doesn’t remember who it was against.
“Everyone knows about Kameron and they’re going to focus on him,” Nishida said.
At 20-3, with the losses coming only against No. 1 Punahou (two close games) and No. 2 Kamehameha, this scenario is possible: the Saints run the table through ILH D-II and also at states, where they can repeat as champions. Thanks to a 5-3 mark against Top 10 teams, St. Francis could end up ranked third in the state, depending on how coaches and media vote.
For now they’ve dealt a severe blow to HBA (16-7, 1-2 ILH) in the regular-season chase. The regular-season winner will get that automatic state berth and a bye through the playoffs. If that scenario plays out, Damien, HBA and the rest of the league will battle in the playoffs for the lone remaining state berth.