‘Battle tested’ Monarchs ready for semifinal with Maryknoll

Damien’s Bryce Forbes drew a foul in a game against Maryknoll this season. The two teams will play tonight with the winner advancing to the state final. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell/Star-Advertiser.

There were all kinds of opportunities for the Damien Monarchs to stumble and stay down.

Somehow, they stayed on their feet and answered every knockout swing Moanalua had to offer in a thrilling 64-57 victory. It’s been the story of their season, and yet another chapter in the book of Alvin, as in Damien coach Alvin Stephenson.

“These guys have been together for two years now, been through all kinds of situations. They’re battle tested and ready. They’re ready for big moments like this,” Stephenson said. “We’ve been through a lot as a family and as a team. We’ve heard all the comments and things like that, but we don’t let none of that stuff like that get to us. We kept our circle tight. We kept God first and that’s all we’ve been doing, just praying for all the negativity to go out of our circle. I think tonight, we’re not listening to the naysayers. We believe in our family, our school, our fans and just the people that support us.”

Jake Holtz, who scored 15 points, hasn’t had much time to dwell on anything but school and basketball. His two foul shots gave Damien the lead in the fourth quarter.

“We battled through it. Adversity, we’ve been going through it the whole season,” Holtz said. “Me and Hayden (Bayudan) are always in the gym, 4:45 in the morning, before school. That’s always our routine, I tire myself out.”

The quarterfinal win in the Snapple/HHSAA Boys Basketball State Championships means that Damien (19-14) is one step closer to the D-I final. One step closer to becoming the first team since Kalaheo in 2011 and ’12 to win D-II and D-I titles back to back — if the Monarchs can get past their nemesis, Maryknoll, and then win the title game on Friday.

Maryknoll (28-4) overwhelmed BIIF champion Kamehameha-Hawaii 61-32 in the earlier semifinal at Moanalua. The Spartans beat Damien in all three previous matchups. Damien was one of only two teams to beat Maryknoll last year, when Maryknoll eventually won the D-I state crown. This year, the Spartans have run the table so far.

>> Jan. 16: Maryknoll 44, @ Damien 40
>> Jan. 31: @ Maryknoll 45, Damien 41
>> Feb. 10: @ Maryknoll 55, Damien 51 (playoff)

“It’s going to be a battle. They know what we do, we know what they do,” Stephenson said. “It’s going to come down to who wants it more. For us, this will be a growing moment for us, to get over the hump. They beat us three times by four (points). We want to see if we can grow from it. I know Kelly Grant’s an unbelievable coach. I’m sure he’s at home right now watching film. As soon as I leave here, I’m going home, too, to watch film.”

More than two weeks ago, the latest bout of adversity hit the team when point guard Hayden Bayudan did not play. The team had won five games in a row, but with Bayudan gone, they lost to Kamehameha and Maryknoll to close the regular season. Since his return, Damien has gone 5-1, winning in the clutch to advance in the ILH playoffs and qualify for the state tourney.

Bayudan had 24 points against Moanalua and showed why he is one of the premier floor generals in the state. He converted at the line, 7-for-8 in the final minutes, shot 8-for-13 from the field, had four rebounds, three assists, seven steals and just three turnovers in 32 minutes.

He played the entire game, which was a roller coaster of momentum, fastbreaks, and emotional swings. Damien’s experience and maturity showed on this night.

Holtz missed a dunk with Damien stuck in a rut, down 48-47, in the fourth quarter. Bayudan saw a layup try get blocked by Moanalua’s Geremy Robinson. Damien remained composed. Holtz sank two foul shots with 4:22 remaining to give Damien the lead for good.

After Bayudan scored off a steal, he plucked a loose ball on a save by Moanalua’s Tyler Ybay and scored on a reverse layup. He connected on two free throws to give the Monarchs a 55-48 lead with 2:39 to go, and Moanalua got no closer than three points the rest of the way.

Stephenson spent the previous night dissecting Moanalua on tape. Damien employed several defenders, each taking turns covering Robinson. RJ Spencer. Tino Atonio. Kenneth Mitchell Jr. Jarvis Natividad. It was a box-and-one, then it was man-to-man with deny coverage on Robinson. Then it was box-and-one again. Then a bit of 1-3-1 zone.

“I watched a lot of film last night. The Kahuku game. The Kalaheo game. He’s a tough kid,” Stephenson said. “I just had to really take myself back to when I was a player to see how I would guard him. He’s similar to his dad (Geremy Sr.). If you let these guys, they’ll take the game over and drop 40. I figured if we can just frustrate him and take him completely out of their system, then we have a great shot at it. He’s averaging 28 a game, so if we cut that in half and keep a body on him.”

The Monarchs also limited Bryant Abalos to seven points on 3-for-9 shooting.

“No. 12 (Abalos), they both can hurt you. We kept an eye on him. You go to sleep on him, he can drop 20 on you,” Stephenson added.

Robinson got his, to be sure. After shooting 2-for-8 in the first half, he finished the game with 20 points and 11 rebounds, plus two blocks. When hit a mid-range jumper with 2:45 left in the third period, Moanalua was up 44-38, the home crowd was up and roaring, and Damien seemed to be in trouble.

But each time, Damien answered. When Bryce Forbes (10 points, nine rebounds, two blocks) was called for an offensive foul late in the fourth quarter — on a well-orchestrated flop by Abalos at the low post — Stephenson opted to keep Forbes in the game. Seconds later, Forbes fouled DiAeris McRaven in a battle for a rebound and fouled out. There was 1:38 left.

“I had trust in my teammates. I knew they would come out with the win. There were some rough calls, but you’ve got to respect the refs,” Forbes said.

They continued to make deny Robinson the ball the best they could. He did damage in transition and scored six points in the fourth quarter, but his shots were almost all contested.

“We trust our guys off the bench, coming in and contributing,” Holtz said. “They had big minutes today.”

HHSAA Division I State Tournament

Match #DateMatchupTime/ScoresSite
1Feb. 17Waiakea vs. LeilehuaLei, 82-53Waiakea
2Feb. 17Kahuku vs. KaiserKah, 56-37Kahuku
3Feb. 17Lahainaluna vs. DamienDMS, 58-49Lahainaluna
4Feb. 17Maryknoll vs. KalaheoMryk, 49-41 (OT)Maryknoll
5Feb. 19(1) Kamehameha vs. LeilehuaKSK, 72-43McKinley
6Feb. 19(4) Baldwin vs. KahukuKah, 64-53McKinley
7Feb. 19(2) Moanalua vs. DamienDMS, 64-57Moanalua
8Feb. 19(3) KS-Hawaii vs. MaryknollMryk, 61-32Moanalua
9*Feb. 20Moanalua vs. KS-HawaiiMoan, 73-61Stan Sheriff Center
10*Feb. 20Leilehua vs. BaldwinBald, 73-54Stan Sheriff Center
11Feb. 20Damien vs. MaryknollMryk, 57-40Stan Sheriff Center
12Feb. 20Kamehameha vs. KahukuKSK, 48-39Stan Sheriff Center
13*Feb. 21Moanalua vs. BaldwinMoan, 64-52Stan Sheriff Center
14*Feb. 21Damien vs. KahukuKah, 50-49Stan Sheriff Center
15Feb. 21Maryknoll vs. KamehamehaMryk, 46-33Stan Sheriff Center
* — consolation


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email hawaiiprepworld@staradvertiser.com.