The first time Maryknoll and Damien met, the visiting Spartans had to scrap for every board and bucket en route to a rugged 44-40 win on Jan. 16 at Bishop Scanlan Gymnasium.
Fifteen days later, on Friday night, Damien visited Maryknoll and, again, lost by the same margin in a 45-41 loss at Clarence T.C. Ching Gymnasium. Maryknoll (25-3, 9-2 ILH) clinched a state-tourney berth with the win. For Damien (15-13, 6-6), a major difference was the void left behind by point guard Hayden Bayudan. The slashing playmaker did not play, wasn’t suited up and didn’t even sit on the Monarchs’ bench.
Bayudan sat in the bleachers and watched the game from afar. It was a shock to coaches and teammates. It was a big surprise to Maryknoll coach Kelly Grant.
“I had no idea. I just found out before the start of the game. I don’t know what happened,” Grant said.
Monarchs coach Alvin Stephenson declined to share details.
“No comment. I don’t know either what’s going on. Team issues,” he said.
Bayudan had recovered from an injury and played well. There was no hint outside of the program that a key cog in Damien’s state-championship hopes would disappear.
“I can’t discuss it right now. It’s too fresh,” Stephenson said. “Team issues.”
When the teams met earlier in the ILH regular season, Bayudan scored four points and took just six shots. He had five assists, four rebounds and three steals. However, there was some chatter after Friday night’s matchup that there was a disagreement about his shooting and ball distribution from the point. No one is certain if Bayudan will return at all. Coming off the departure of point guard Jydon Hall, who moved to Georgia in the offseason, Damien’s dreams have been put through the ringer at times.
Tino Atonio, one of the state’s most versatile players, absorbed most of the PG duties. The 6-foot-5 junior finished with two points on a couple of free throws, and took just four shots against Maryknoll’s aggressive man defense.
“Tino’s role had to change tonight. He found out he was playing point guard right before the game. I thought he did a good job,” Stephenson said. “I tip my hat to Maryknoll. They’re a good team.”
Niko Robben 18, Liko Soares 11 as No. 2 Maryknoll (25-3, 9-2) escapes with a 45-41 win over No. 5 Damien. @MaryknollSports clinches a state-tourney berth. Jake Holtz 19/5 for @DamienMemorial which finishes ILH 6-6 (15-13 overall). Soares and Robben chat postgame. @HawaiiPrepWorld pic.twitter.com/9DuTIbMqPZ
— Paul Honda (@PupulePaul) February 1, 2020
Jake Holtz finished with 19 points and five boards to lead the Monarchs. He had a bag of ice on his right elbow after landing on it during the second half.
“I like that the boys have fight and we’re not a one-man team. We have a bunch of guys who can do different things. We showed that tonight. We’ve got multiple guys who bring the ball up the court and run the court, play one through five. Our defense has been really good lately. We’ve still got some things we’ve got to fix,” Stephenson said. “I’m very, very proud of the boys, how they played this second (round-robin). The first time through was like a big haymaker that we got hit with coming from Division II, just seeing all the calls and how physical it was. It was completely different, so we took the blows came back and we did better.”
At 6-6 in ILH play (15-13 overall), Damien’s shot at a state-tournament berth will come with the second round, an elimination playoff tournament for the ILH’s third spot. Stephenson remains optimistic.
“We’ve got a third chance (in the playoffs) and I feel like we’ll be even better,” he said. “We still have a shot. We still believe. These boys are fighters. They’re lions and warriors. They’ll bounce back.”