Damien Coach Keith Spencer on exhibition at Saint Louis: ‘It worked out very well’

Keith Spencer and his Damien basketball team couldn’t play an official Interscholastic League of Honolulu schedule this season.

So they are on a journey of their own making. The team, practicing away from campus since the start of hoops season — facilities remain closed — formed club status and went to Saint Louis for an exhibition battle with the Crusaders on Friday. Saint Louis won, 53-42, but the two teams set a precedent for teams in Hawaii by playing the first high school basketball game on a campus since February of 2020.

“The Saint Louis administration and Dan Hale did a great job,” Spencer said, referring to the Crusaders’ head coach. “We met at 5:30 at the outside entrance. We had temperature checks and he had all seating six feet from each other. Designated spots, blue tape where we needed to sit, coaches and players.”

Officials also provided a role in this COVID-19 era basketball contest.

“Sometimes the masks would slide down and the refs reminded the kids. We kept the masks fresh all the time,” Spencer added. “Once the game was over, we immediately left through a designated exit. It worked out very well.”

Without the involvement of the ILH, the onus is on individual athletic programs and their schools to play competitively or not. In other words, one of the key issues in cancellation of sports statewide by leagues — primarily those dominated by public schools — is liability.

“Everything that we’re providing to the kids is through us as coaches,” Spencer said. “So right now, we’re playing as the Hawaii Raiders (club team). One of my assistants is Greg Ushijima (of Hawaii Raiders). We had to come in as a club team to get insurance. We went through the AAU circuit.”

It was a great relief to the coaches and players, even though spectators were not permitted to enter the spacious, new T.C. Ching Athletic Center. While pickup sports and workouts occur at parks across Oahu, Spencer is happy that his Monarchs have a safe setting for their practices and games.

“We’re not going to stop the kids from playing, so Dan created a safe place for them to play. Now the protocols become part of our coaching. All the Saint Louis staff did a great job that everyone was safe as we could be. You cannot complain about that,” Spencer said.

On the horizon, Damien has a rematch with Saint Louis in early February. A game at Hanalani is also in the works.

“If we can play another school 10 times, let’s play 10 times. The kids enjoy being together. Not going to school full time, they just enjoy being amongst each other. The social part is part of growing up, not just the educational part,” Spencer said. “For their sanity.”


  1. Chris B. January 21, 2021 7:20 pm

    Kudos to Saint Louis for providing a safe environment for the kids to play. I also heard that they also had a scrimmage between Saint Louis Varsity soccer vs Damien Soccer. It seems like all the protocols are there. Nothing is 100% but at least they are not sitting back twiddling their thumbs like these other schools out there are doing. Feel bad for those seniors who have nothing. We gotta continue to live in the safest environment we can provide.

  2. Misty Tufono January 21, 2021 8:48 pm

    Thank you to leaders like Coach Keith Spencer and Coach Dan Hale, their schools, ADs, officials, and families that were willing to collaborate and do the work to make it happen for the student athletes. We have to live with the risk of Covid, but if we do nothing we also risk harm to the kids in other areas of their physical, mental, emotional, social well being. God bless the doers.

  3. Oldmans January 23, 2021 2:37 pm

    Congratulations to both schools!! St. Louis stepping up and proving this can be done is truly amazing and inspiring. Hats off to Keith Spencer for his efforts. Although he had to enter the boys as a club team because his school would not bless this bubble, he pulled it off. Proud of both programs! Heard the boys soccer teams from both programs also pulled off a bubble game that went well. Thank God someone is stepping up.

  4. S N H Chun February 3, 2021 9:31 pm

    I am so proud that Keith Spencer and Dan Hale could do this for the kids. They need the positive outlet. These kids need some stability in their lives. I hope others follow because this pandemic has been hard on so many people including our young people and physical activities helps mental stability! Got to watch tonight’s game on FB live stream. Thank you St Louis for opening your home! Keep on doing your thing Coaches Spencer and Hale!

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