Driver’s Seat: St. Louis 1 win from big dance

Every day, every night, it’s been a mantra of “Say whaaaat?” in ILH boys basketball.

No disrespect to the relative parity of the OIA East. No insult whatsoever to the mini-surprise of Baldwin’s midseason win over Lahainaluna in the MIL. No shade, as the kids say, regarding the BIIF’s wacky race.

Nope. In the ILH, every night brings a “Wow” and a “Now what?”

The now what is this: First-place Saint Louis is 6-2 in league play with two games remaining. Their closest competitors — ‘Iolani, Kamehameha and Punahou — are logjammed at 4-4. That means the Crusaders, who fell to No. 3 in the Star-Advertiser Top 10 after a blowout loss to ‘Iolani — can clinch the regular-season title and an automatic state-tournament berth with a victory tonight.

Saint Louis. Six state championships, including five from 1957-68. Technically, that is four state titles and two territorial titles. The last title was in 1996 with Kaipo Spencer at the helm and Junior Wong leading from the backcourt. Today, it’s first-year coach Allan Silva planning a route to the post-season.

Tip-off for tonight’s Saint Louis-Kamehameha battle, by the way, has been moved back to 8 p.m. That change came on Sunday, according to editor Curtis Murayama. That’s a late, late starting time for most ILH events, especially on a school night. But there it is. ILH League Pass. It’s awesome.

The race has been confounding and amusing for fans of every team of ILH Division I. From Mid-Pacific’s fast 2-0 start to the rallies of Punahou and Maryknoll, to the constant of Crusader victories, it doesn’t matter who wins by 2 or 20 or who loses by 2 or 20. As Kamehameha coach Greg Tacon has echoed, the sooner a team gets prepared for the next game, the better. Rear-view mirrors are useless in the autobahn intensity of the ILH.

It is possible, though unthinkable to Saint Louis loyalists, that the Crusaders could somehow falter. There is so little margin for error, that if the Crusaders play B+ basketball, that might not be enough to win the ILH (regular season and playoffs), let alone secure a state berth. They could lose these last two regular-season games, then get ousted in the playoffs. It could happen.

But they are in the driver’s seat, just one win away from the big dance.


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