Crusaders shock Maryknoll in ILH tournament

Saint Louis' Jaymason Nunuha shot over Maryknoll’s Riden Leong in the Crusaders' upset of the Spartans. Photo by Dennis Oda/Star-Advertiser.
Saint Louis’ Jaymason Nunuha shot over Maryknoll’s Riden Leong in the Crusaders’ upset of the Spartans. Photo by Dennis Oda/Star-Advertiser.

Allan Silva doesn’t have to go back very far to recall the last time he’s seen a special moment or two on the basketball hardwood.

The Saint Louis coach was at Farrington just a few seasons ago when the Governors made a big splash, going deep into the postseason. They went from Division II champions to OIA D-I champions, and reached the state final before falling to ‘Iolani in 2014.

In year three at Saint Louis, Silva’s Crusaders have hardly had an impeccable season with a 2-9 mark in league play and 11-15 overall. When it mattered most, however, Saint Louis rose to the challenge with a 63-57 upset win over No. 4 Maryknoll on the Spartans’ home court.

Maryknoll had been steamrolling for a half, shooting 9-for-12 from the field during a 25-point second quarter.

However, with a 1-2-2 zone that extended out to nearly halfcourt, Saint Louis turned a nine-point halftime deficit into a one-point lead late in the third quarter. From there, what had been a fast-paced shootout turned into a battle of wills. And nerves.

“That’s three games in a row we’ve had bad third quarters,” veteran coach Kelly Grant of Maryknoll said.

The normally sure-handed and deadly accurate Spartans committed nine of their 14 turnovers in the second half. That’s nine giveaways and just six field goals — 6-for-25 from the field — after intermission.

For the game, Maryknoll shot 6-for-24 from the arc and 15-for-27 in the 2-point area. Yet, the Spartans were content to launch from deep against that 1-2-2, a defense that Silva had not shown until this very night.

“We were saving it,” the wily veteran said.

For Jaymason Nunuha, a senior guard who has come quite close to qualifying for the state tourney before, it was a night to remember. He had 20 points and 11 rebounds, and Noa Purcell came up big with 11 of his 18 points after halftime. It was also a major plus for the Crusaders when reserve Jalen Smith, the 6-5 junior who was a key part of Kalaheo’s state-championship team as a freshman, attacked the rim successfully against Maryknoll. So did Noah Browne and freshman Keawe Silva, in addition to Purcell and Nunuha.

Nunuha was a sophomore when Saint Louis was one win away from qualifying for the big dance in 2015. His older brother, Jimmy Nunuha III, was an integral part of that team, an outstanding floor general and defensive stopper. But the older Nunuha broke his wrist while trying to dunk before the playoff game and Saint Louis lost.

Now the Crusaders find themselves one win away again. ‘Iolani, the defending state champion, is technically the league’s second-place team during the regular season after beating Maryknoll (43-42) and losing to Punahou in a tiebreaker series in the past week.

Playing that extra game may have sapped some of the energy from Maryknoll, a team heavy with underclassmen, while Saint Louis rested up and had more practice time to prepare for these playoffs.

In any event, Saint Louis meets an ‘Iolani squad that had tonight off, a bye as a consequence of being the second-place team. Kamehameha advanced by eliminating Mid-Pacific 50-44 tonight.

On Thursday, an ‘Iolani win over Saint Louis coupled with a Punahou victory over Kamehameha would guarantee a state-tourney berth for the Raiders.

If ‘Iolani beats Saint Louis and Kamehameha upsets Punahou, that second berth would still be up in the air.

And if Saint Louis pulls off a second upset win in as many nights — and Punahou eliminates Kamehameha — Saint Louis would finish no lower than second place in the tourney. Then the Crusaders would need a win in the tourney final to secure that state berth.

If Saint Louis upsets ‘Iolani, and then loses to Punahou, there would be an extra playoff game between regular-season runner-up ‘Iolani and tourney runner-up Saint Louis. But if Kamehameha knocks off Punahou on Thursday and Saint Louis wins against ‘Iolani, the Kamehameha-Saint Louis winner would claim the tourney title and that second state berth.

Confused? It’s OK. All that matters right now is that Saint Louis and Kamehameha have survived and advanced.

There will always be some clamoring for more ILH entries into the state tourney. As it is, the state’s lone private-school league sends just two representatives into the 12-team field. Which means, if fans haven’t been taking in the amazing madness of tiebreaker games and playoff games, they’re missing some of the best basketball statewide. It’s the Gauntlet of ILH athletics, with an intensity level and electric atmosphere on par with — and sometimes beyond — state-tournament games.

Maryknoll’s preseason was crystalline. Twelve wins in its first 12 games. Grant’s team beat two mainland teams by 34 and 15 points, then went 2-2 in a California tourney. Then the Spartans went 8-2 in league play and finished in a three-way tie for first. Punahou drew the bye, and Maryknoll led ‘Iolani 23-13 at the half on Monday before losing 43-42.

Two nights later, the Spartans are now eliminated. The season is over. In the ILH’s playoff dance, teams play at state-tourney quality or get zapped. It is, as always, brutally beautiful and painful. The pendulum never stops swinging in ILH sports. Teams that evolve have often done so because of the pain of previous failures. And the teams that enjoy early success sometimes don’t evolve much more.

“We got our shots off, but our defense was porous, taking chances on stealing passes,” Grant noted. “It’s has to be five guys playing defense. When you have a lot of success early, you lose total concentration. You lose your edge.”


  1. Education First February 9, 2017 8:23 am

    The Owls was rising and it was “Their Moment” but unfortunately that ended. They are once again in last place in the ILH. They will have far less talent again next year. Their JV and Intermediate teams struggled. Maybe they should use the Girls’ formula and enter Division 2 to try and win. But then again, I don’t see them beating St. Francis. But at least they wouldn’t end their season with only 2 league wins. But like all the MPI “homers” will say, “we played a lot of close games.” That is not the mantra or philosophy of a winning program.

  2. Just Play February 9, 2017 9:44 am

    Congrats to the Crusaders! Not sure why there is a comment about Midpac since this is an article about the Maryknoll STL game.

  3. Education First February 9, 2017 12:05 pm

    It’s an article about St. Louis, but also discusses all of the other teams from the ILH, this making my comment relevant. Like I said, MPI should play D2. I think they have like a total of 4-5 league wins over the past 2 years. That isn’t very good.

  4. Just Play February 9, 2017 2:16 pm

    Totally get it. But it seems like you have a personal problem with Midpac. What’s this whole owl rising and “Their Moment” stuff about? Was that their theme or something? For you to mention those things must mean you’re close to the program. So either you got cut? Or someone you knew got cut? No idea what St. Louis’ schedule was last year. But let’s say it was the same as this year. Does that mean they should move down too? No. The beauty of sports and ILH basketball (of recent years) – everyone can beat everyone at any given time. Look at what STL did last night to Maryknoll. The last place team of the regular season knocked off a team that was tied for 1st.

  5. Education First February 10, 2017 7:35 am

    @Just Play, I just don’t care for the way they play. Now granted, they play hard. But many in the basketball community don’t care for some of their “unsavory” behavior. In my opinion they hot dog. I saw a few games where they point at kids on the opposing bench after hitting a 3. I saw a kid hit a 3, then stop in front of the opponents bench and pose and hold 3 fingers up at the other team’s bench. This is just what I witnessed. Others I know (and no one needs to believe me or my friends) have told me they hit a 3 and all 5 of the kids on the are jumping around holding 3 fingers up.

    That is totally cool if you want to be excited or what some feel is showboating. But when you are consistently coming in last and all you can muster up is 2 league wins, you probably want to tone it down. That’s like someone say, “hey look at my car, hey look at my car, and you pull up in a rusty old Datsun.

    Yes Hirata gets them to play hard. But I don’t care for the showboating from a team with 2 league wins. But this is just my opinion. And if your moment consists of only 2 wins, maybe you need to focus on a new moment.

    Like I said earlier, I think the D2 model is a better one for them for now….

  6. Education First February 10, 2017 10:18 am

    @ Just Play, I don’t know anyone personally on the team, coaching staff, or who got cut. I am forming my opinion based solely on what I see and have heard from coaches/fans/parents I trust.

    I have to chip in the game. I enjoy Iolani and how they conduct themselves. They are the top program over the last 15 years. Yet I don’t see shirts with “Our Moment” or their kids pointing their fingers at benches. I am not saying they are perfect, but are a class act in my opinion.

    Maybe the taunting and celebrating is to convince themselves (Mid Pac) that they are really good. If that is the case, I can kind of understand.

    But winning 2 league games isn’t that good.

  7. UH Hoops February 10, 2017 1:07 pm

    @Education First, I agree with you. I think Iolani is a great program. I think Shimamoto is a great coach. Tacon and Matsuda are great as well. However, you do not talk about how Maryknoll’s first place spot in the ILH slipped this season, or how they haven’t been able to win a title in the last 5 years despite having Gilmore, Burnett, Schramm, Sueing, Winquist, Harris, Washington, and so on. You do not talk about St Louis winning only 2 games all year with the kind of talent they have nor do you mention them blowing their state seed last season despite having 3-4 opportunities to close. Yet, you are so persistent on talking about MPI. You also don’t mention former MPI coach, Holiday, and how his team lost every game by blowout. You do not mention how MPI had 1 ILH win in five years prior to current coach. Last year MPI beat (at the time) #1 Punahou and #2 Kaiser. I don’t know the coaches, but to me it looks like they do more with less. Should St Louis drop to D2 with 2 wins? I don’t think so, but given your theories it seems as if you may disagree. I’m not an alum, fan or coach I just agree with “just play”, it sounds like you have a personal problem with the MPI coach.

  8. Just Play February 10, 2017 1:38 pm

    The Midpac coach is doing the best he can with the players that he has. Curious what the other ILH coaches could do with the team that they have at Midpac. Easy to be successful when your team is stacked. Coach Hirata is doing fine. Remember, he is a product of ‘Iolani, so he knows what he’s doing. Also, every single ILH school has kids who hot dog. EVERY SINGLE one. Some more than others, yes. I think ILH hoops fans can name at least one kid from each school who showboats. But I don’t believe in dissing high school players, so I won’t point any of them out. Likewise, every single team has a player/players who just play their game, no showboating necessary. Punahou’s Kobayashi is one of those guys. ‘Iolani’s Hogland is another. I do agree that ‘Iolani has a top-notch program. No doubt. And Shimamoto is an awesome coach too. Midpac is not a bad team at all, they just play in a tough, tough league. I bet if you threw the two bottom ILH teams (Midpac and Stl) into the OIA they would win WAY more than just 2-3 games apiece. I’m a product of public schools, so no disrespect to public schools, but it’s the truth. And let’s not get into the recruiting that the ILH schools can do. ‘Cus come on now, a lot of OIA schools “recruit” too.

  9. The Watcher February 10, 2017 9:08 pm

    @ Justplay you say, “Remember, he is a product of ‘Iolani, so he knows what he’s doing.” So are you saying everyone from Iolani knows what they are doing? How do you know this? I am going to assume there are people from all schools where some can do it and some cannot. I am just a little curious why coming from Iolani means he can do it. So if he was from Punahou or HBA does that mean he cannot do it?

    Please elaborate.

  10. The Watcher February 10, 2017 9:13 pm

    I don’t have a personal problem with MPI. But to defend Maryknoll, they don’t win only 2 games and were in the state championship game a few years ago. As for beating Punahou, Halley’s Comet comes every so often too, haha.

    Your Maryknoll list is pretty impressive:
    Gilmore – got to the title game
    Burnett – got to the title gme
    Schramm – big for nothing, why is he listed
    Sueing – was a 10th grader
    Winquist – was a 9th grader and left
    Harris – ended up at Kahuku
    Washington – left

    Maryknoll had some nice teams, but it’s not like they had A level talent and everyone else had B level. The Kalaheo team that beat them was legit. Iolani is legit.

  11. Just Play February 10, 2017 10:11 pm

    @The Watcher points well taken. You’re right. Just because he’s from ‘Iolani doesn’t make him a good coach. And yes. ‘Iolani is no doubt legit. Thoughts on the ILH Championship game tomorrow night? Who’s taking it? Also curious how ‘Iolani and Punahou would do against Kahuku.

  12. The Watcher February 11, 2017 4:32 pm

    @ Just Play, I like Iolani and Coach Dean. Coach Dean is consistent. Darren in an underachiever. They have more talent year in and year out and do less than Iolani does. Even if Punahou wins tonight, they won’ win states and will onyl go further in states if Iolani faces Kahuku earlier. Matsuda isn’t a coach who elevates talent. He is a guy who has tons of talent and doesn’t know what to do with it.

  13. Just Play February 11, 2017 7:43 pm

    @TheWatcher totally agree. With all the studs at Punahou you would think they would dominate. But that being said, they did just win the ILH. However, this was ‘Iolani’s 7th game since February 1st, and only Pun’s 4th game. Wonder if the results would’ve been different if ‘Iolani had fresh legs. My guess is yes.

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