D-II Monarchs stun defending D-I state champ Punahou

The Damien Monarchs have beaten a slew of Goliaths this season. Photo by Paul Honda/Star-Advertiser

There’s a new king on the throne.

The Damien Monarchs followed up last week’s triumph at the Pete Smith Classic by stunning Punahou 65-57 on Monday night in the final of the inaugural Damien Invitational at Bishop Scanlan Gymnasium.

At 6-0, the Division II Monarchs have a compelling case as the best boys basketball team in the state. Across the ledger, Damien has defeated some of the state’s regulars in postseason play, from Campbell (62-47) and two-time defending D-II state champion St. Francis (74-60) to Kalaheo (66-57) and now, defending D-I state champ Punahou.


Coach Alvin Stephenson is as calm as he is stunned. With a solid core of guards, Damien finished second to St. Francis in the D-II state tourney last season. St. Francis is now in D-I, leaving Damien as the favorite in the ILH and, should the Monarchs qualify, state tournament in D-II.

But they’re already proving to be supreme in D-I. And there won’t be any switch soon; the time to declare has passed. They get one more week against D-I competition, including games at the St. Francis Holiday Hoops Classic, before ILH D-II regular season tips off.

Coach Stephenson chatted with Hawaii Prep World on Tuesday afternoon.

HPW: The revelation for me watching your team beat Kalaheo last week was Jake Holtz. He’s a talented football player with a lot of potential, but on the basketball court, wow. He came out of nowhere. Did he suit up last year?

Stephenson: Jake didn’t play last year. He sat out because he transferred from Saint Louis. He’s a quarterback, so us and Saint Louis swapped. They took Jayden de Laura and we took Jake.

HPW: Did he practice last year while he sat out?

Stephenson: He was completely out of sight. I didn’t meet Jake until this summer.

HPW: So that was summer league?

Stephenson: Yeah. He was doing pretty much what he’s doing now. I said, wow, we’ve got a pretty good big man who runs the floor.

HPW: It’s hard to find a post player who is willing to stay in there and battle for every board. Has he always been the big man?

Stephenson: He told me he was always the center growing up.

HPW: It’s always fun to see a guy who plays a finesse position in football who’s a banger on the basketball court, or vice-versa.

Stephenson: Our football coaches are shocked to see how physical he is on the basketball court.

HPW: He’s a good 6-3 and a half, maybe 6-4.

Stephenson: 6-4, I would say.

HPW: Do you let him shoot from the arc? Or do you feel like you’ve got plenty of guys out there?

Stephenson: He wants to shoot the 3, but we tell him don’t worry about because we’ve got so many guys who can hit it consistently. He’s bought into his role.

HPW: The win over Punahou last night, a team that won the state D-I title and is going through the usual transition with some huge losses to graduation, it’s a win-win for your team. Most people will cheer for the underdog, but your team is not really a surprise anymore. And if someone stops Jydon (Hall) or Jake, there are other guys who can easily pump in 15, 20, 25 points.

Stephenson: Last night was a good indicator of what we potentially can be. Nobody was worried about scoring. They wanted to play defense. Just have composure and just let the game come to you. They’re starting to buy into all of that, and we haven’t played our best basketball. We still make a lot of mistakes and there’s a lot to clean up.

HPW: OK, please allow me to go into crazy fan mode. What if, somehow, the ILH and HHSAA came to your school and said, there’s a way we might be able to move your program to D-I this season. And the ILH would get maybe one more state-tourney berth. Would you be willing?

Stephenson: I would talk to my AD about it, we have a good relationship, to look at the pros and cons. If you ask the boys, they would absolutely say let’s go. But to keep them hungry, we have to at least win a league championship. We’ve been down here, so close, injuries one year, then battling with St. Francis and falling short. So the goal is to win a league or a state championship. We win one and and we will move up.

HPW: One of the intriguing things is the team is still fairly young.

Stephenson: We have three seniors. Lindon (Sevilleja Jr.), Dorien (Penebacker) and Tanner (Souza).

HPW: So (Hayden) Bayudan isn’t a senior?

Stephenson: He’s a freshman.


HPW: Wow. Between Lindon, Dorien, Hayden, Jydon and Bryce (Forbes), that’s a group with a lot of chemistry, length, unselfishness. And yet, hardly anyone saw this coming. Based on last year, Top 10 was reasonable. But Top 3? Or No. 1? Here’s a crazy fan, social media type of question: ‘Why didn’t Damien declare for Division I in the first place? Must be scared.’

Stephenson: We’re not scared. I didn’t realize we would be this good. I’m shocked like everyone else, to be honest with you. These kinds of teams don’t come around very often. We’re just enjoying the journey. It’s good for the school to be able to see this. We weren’t scared or anything.

HPW: That is very obvious. It’s been a year, and last season’s team was really good, but what’s changed?

Stephenson: This is a lot different from last year. We’ve matured a lot more, Losing in the state final, it’s crazy to say, but it’s a good thing. It motivated them to want to practice harder and beat everyone in the their path. To prove that they belong, that Damien’s not a doormat. The look in their eyes is different. I’m trying to keep motivating them and keep them humble.

HPW: So early rankings, not from the Star-Advertiser or Hawaii Prep World, had Punahou at No. 1. That makes sense as a defending state champion, but there’s going to be a much different look. We’ll have our boys basketball poll soon. All these teams your team has beaten, does it matter if they were ranked higher?

Stephenson: Punahou deserved to be No. 1 just like St. Francis should be No. 2, two teams that were state champions. Then things happened in preseason.

HPW: For your guys who pay attention to rankings, is that something you want, or would you prefer that they shut it out.

Stephenson: I told them to ignore all the noise, focus on us. If we’re ranked, great. If not, no biggie. Play every game as hard as a we can, and learn and have fun.

HPW: Who is the most underrated player on the team?

Stephenson: The most underrated person on our team is Dorien Penebacker. He doesn’t score a lot, but the rebounds, he gets loose balls, pushes the ball on the fasbreak, the screens he sets, he’s the glue to our team. He does all the dirty work. Last night, he was holding down the big guys. Duke (Clemens) is 6-5, 290 and Dorrien is 6-3 and maybe 175 pounds soaking wet. He held down the guy from Kahuku for a half. There’s games we literally have to carry him to the lockerroom at halftime. I saw him on campus and he’s limping today. He said, ‘Coach I’ll be good for the next game.’

HPW: How special is it to beat Punahou? Is it special for the players, or is it special for you, too?

Stephenson: I think it’s special to everybody, me, the kids the school, our coaches. Beating them kind of shows all the hard work we’ve put in to prepare them for every game. School-wise, I don’t think we’ve ever beaten Punahou (in basketball). When I was an assistant, in my first year we lost to them by 50. My first year as a head coach, we lost by 30. To see them perform the way they did was awesome. We have a lot of respect for all of our opponents. We’re just happy to win our first tournament.

HPW: So it might be better not to be voted No. 1.

Stephenson: I’m going to be biased. I want us to be the No. 1 team in Hawaii.

HPW: Your key guys in the rotation, the passing, the timing, they’re all there. How long have they been at Damien?

Stephenson: Dorien’s been here since eighth grade. Jydon and Lindon since freshman year. Hayden since eight grade.

HPW: What about your tall guy, Bryce?

Stephenson: This is his first year playing. He transferred from Radford and sat out last year. The unique thing is they’re all friends. He and Boogie (Jydon Hall) went to elementary school together and played against each other in club. They and Jeremy (Marquette) all live next to each other in military housing. (Bryce’s) mom is in the Army. She found out about Damien from her boss, whose daughter goes to Damien.

HPW: The grapevine works. So what’s next for the team?

Stephenson: We play at Castle tomorrow (Wednesday) and at Kapolei on Dec. 4. Then it’s the St. Francis tournament.

HPW: So, from what I see on the bracket, if Damien gets past Kailua and St. Francis wins, Damien and St. Francis will meet in the semifinal round. It’s almost like the Saints want a shot at revenge, though ti’s probably coincidental. Have your players seen the bracket?

Stephenson: They know. Originally we were supposed to play at Kahuku on Nov. 30, but we cancelled that because we were supposed play them at the St. Francis tournament. Then they rescheduled the tournament.

HPW: That might stoke the fire.

Stephenson: We always want to play them and they always want to play us.


HPW: These big, early wins will certainly raise expectations from everyone. Fans, especially.

Stephenson: We just try to stay the course. The preseason’s kind of us evaluating, so I’m not putting any pressure on the kids. My speech every day is stay composed and have fun. We’ll make adjustments, but there’s no pressure.

COMMENTS

  1. Jet Wavy November 27, 2018 7:09 pm

    It’s impressive what Damien has done. Took out 3 top 10 teams, two of which were most likely #1 and #2 only 6 games into the season. I’m all for Damien holding the #1 spot during the duration of the pre-season, but once the regular season kicks in and the ILH D1 boys start to grind it out, there’s no way Damien’s regular season should have more clout over someone like Kamehameha, Maryknoll, or even Mid-Pacific who grind it out against D1 competition nightly while Damien plays the likes of HBA, UH Lab, and Le Jardin. For now, though, very worthy of #1.


  2. Dawn (Penebacker) Pojsl November 27, 2018 7:56 pm

    Damien played at great game last night. Hard work and dedication are paying off. Way to go Dorien and the rest of the Monarchs! Proud Auntie status, check.


  3. wafan November 28, 2018 7:12 am

    Viriliter Age, Monarchs!


  4. Kelly Ann Bayudan November 28, 2018 4:14 pm

    To HPW it’s Hayden Bayudan not Hayden Bayudon. Thank you.


  5. Slayer November 29, 2018 12:05 pm

    Get your facts straight Coach, Jayden Delaura left in his Freshman Year at Damien, way before the kid Jake came into the picture. The kid jake was a 4th string quarterback and knew he would never play so he left Stl , as for the coach good job Coaching up the kids, wish the football head coach could get his act together as well to “Coach up” the kids. Shame on the mess! Any how good luck to the mighty Monarchs. Blessings upon blessings!
    Over and out!!


  6. Q November 29, 2018 10:01 pm

    Ok braddah De Laura played at Damien his freshmen year. He was on the Varsity Bball team after football. Braddah Jake from St Louis transferred to Damien; but guess what, I think the Monarchs got the better deal. You say 4th String, with those 100+ players you have probably 8th String players on the St. Louis roster. So thanks to the Crusaders….the rest of you 4th String plus players should look at Jake as an example and transfer to a school where you can enjoy your high school years, not sit on the bench and hopefully make an impact. Thank You to the Holtz Ohana for Jake. VIRILITER AGE!!! GO MONARCHS!!!
    BLESSINGS TO ALL THE PLAYERS THAT COMPETE!!!


  7. Slayer November 30, 2018 2:22 am

    How can you say the Monarchs got the better deal? Look where STL is and where the monarchs is… There’s a big difference in caliber, also if he was so good why did u guys lose to Iolani? Their team wasn’t half as good as they were last season. Again.. Good luck to mighty monarchs and maybe you should ask for one of the Saints Coaches to take over your football program too, so the kids can get “Coached up” the right way!! That head coach you got is so pathetic.. lmao!! Anyhow.. again.. OVER AND OUT.


  8. Don't Delete!! December 2, 2018 1:14 am

    No one is beating Damien! we are the best team in Hawaii!!! D2 States Champs is guaranteed!!!


  9. Robert C. December 3, 2018 9:11 pm

    I honestly think that Damien got the better deal between the trade off. That Jake Kid has a bright future, I was watching him on tv and once that O line gets straight Damien will be nice, he’s already making impacts on the basketball court. Not to mention, Bryce Forbes is pretty nice too, I’ve seen him playing on the basketball court and he is so lengthy. Good luck to the Monarchs!!


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