The Damien Monarchs are in Phase 2 — life after Jydon Hall — with one big test now behind them.
The Democrats of Jefferson (Portland, Ore.), also known as the Demos, provided that challenge. Up just eight points at the half, Jefferson locked down defensively with an air-tight man-to-man commitment en route to a 75-49 win on day two of the ‘Iolani Prep Classic.
Keshawn Hall led the Demos with 18 points and Kamron Robinson added 15. Lamar Washington tallied 12 points on four 3-pointers, and Mookie Cook finished with 11 in Jefferson’s balanced offense.
Defensively, the Demos got more physical on the ball, and that helped turn a 40-32 halftime lead into a comfortable 56-41 cushion going into the fourth quarter.
“This is only our second game of the year. We’ve got a bunch of new guys,” coach Pat Strickland said. “No seniors on the team. We graduated six seniors last year. The guys that came back are seasoned guys. Some good talent, some young talent. We’re just trying to make it mesh.”
It was a “sluggish start” for Jefferson, Strickland said.
“No. 23 (Jake Holtz) and No. 22 (Bryce Forbes) are solid players. 11 (Tino Atonio), we didn’t have any scouting on them,” Strickland said. “We did see some highlight videos on 23 and 22, and they’re pretty good.”
The Demos limited Holtz to nine points and Forbes to seven. Kenneth Mitchell Jr. led the Monarchs with 13 points while Atonio, showing more handles and range this season, tallied 11. Hayden Bayudan chipped in seven points.
For Damien, facing a powerhouse from Oregon is a relished test. Without their point guard, Hall — he moved to Georgia to live with his father — Atonio and Forbes are handling the ball on top more. Every Monarch is bringing more to the table. Against Jefferson’s defense, Damien couldn’t get to the basket consistently after halftime.
Jefferson relied on Nate Rawlins-Kibonge to bring tighter, tougher defense.
“He’s got the green hair,” Strickland said of the 6-foot-7 junior. “We tried a bunch of guys to rotate. I was a defensive guy, myself. Our season is about defense. Defense and hustle, the little things. That’s what wins championships. They let you get a little physical, you’ve got to adjust to the refs.”
Jefferson will square off against Mount Vernon (N.Y.) in the 8 p.m. game on Thursday. Damien will be back in the morning to play Mililani at 11.