The opportunity to split the top of the ILH boys basketball was there for Maryknoll.
Instead, No. 1 Kamehameha made all the clutch plays down the stretch in a 49-41 win over No. 2 Maryknoll on Saturday afternoon.
“This (lead) is as big as it’s going to get, probably. We’ve got four games next week,” Kamehameha coach Larry Park said. “We talked before about the game about having confidence and being the more mature team. Maryknoll is a great team, great defensively. Basketball is a game of runs, and we talked about no matter what, we had to keep our assignments.”
A boisterous senior-day crowd at Clarence T.C. Ching Gymnasium saw the Spartans rally from a 21-5 first-half deficit for a fourth-quarter lead. But Kamehameha committed no turnovers in the final stanza, forced Maryknoll into five giveaways, and Kordel Ng’s layup with 2:18 left gave the visiting Warriors the lead for good.
Maryknoll dropped to 7-2 in ILH play (23-3 overall), losing at home for the first time after seven wins. Kamehameha (21-5, 8-0) opened a bigger gap as the league’s frontrunner, and is now 7-0 on opposing team’s home courts.
Less than a day earlier — 19 hours, to be exact, Kamehameha pulled out a 49-43 win at Punahou in similar fashion. Grind defensively with constant pressure, and make stops in the final minutes.
Ng’s key bucket gave Kamehameha a 41-39 lead. Christmas Togiai then hit four of his next four free throws — after shooting 1-for-4 at the charity stripe earlier — to open the lead to 45-39 with 44.9 seconds to play.
Paliku Kamaka swished two foul shots for a 47-41 lead with 16.4 seconds left. EJ Kapihe, who led Kamehameha with 10 points, and in the final quarter had two key rebounds and a steal, sank two foul shots with 6.5 seconds remaining to ice the win.
Kapihe’s two 3-pointers as a stretch 4 — or is he a 3?
“I’ve been working hard, working with Chris and Kordel. At least 100 shots every day,” the 6-foot-4 sophomore said.
Against Punahou, Ng and Togiai scored all of Kamehameha’s field goals. On Saturday, Togiai didn’t have to carry a load. He had just one point in the first half, while his teammates shot lights out. Kamehameha was 6-for-8 from 3-point range in the opening quarter. After posting a 23-point, 16-rebound line at Punahou, Togiai had eight points four boards, six assists and three steals against Maryknoll.
Kamaka finished with nine points, as did Ng.
Liko Soares led Maryknoll with 14 points, 12 in the second half. Sage Tolentino had nine points, all in the first half. The Spartans shot 2-for-13 from long range.
Kamehameha got a corner 3 from Kapihe and two quick treys by Ng to seize a 9-0 lead.
“It was a really bad start. If had to choose to let Kordel shoot from 26 feet out, I’d take my chances,” Maryknoll coach Kelly Grant said.
It was the first time, he added, that his team lost on a senior “night.”
“But usually, we don’t schedule that game against a No. 1 team,” he added.
For Kapihe, being a key role player is a reward.
“This win means a lot. It just gives us more confidence, he said.
Grant tipped his hat to the Warriors and Kapihe.
“EJ played lights out. Big rebounds. He’s going to be a handful next year,” Grant said.
At Clarence T.C. Ching Gymnasium
Kamehameha (21-5, 8-0) 21 7 5 16 — 49
Maryknoll (23-3, 7-2) 5 13 12 11 — 41
KS: Kordel Ng 9, Preston Ponteras 3, Oni Pung 0, Braden Defries 6, Paliku Kamaka 9, Christmas Togiai 8, EJ Kapihe 10, Xavier Lever 2, Bailey Lee 2.
MS: Reggie Eiland 0, Noah Furtado 6, Parker Grant 0, Kahaweo McGee 2, Niko Robben 7, Irvin Lin 0, Logan Dias 3, Liko Soares 14, Sage Tolentino 9.
3-point goals: KS 9 (Ng 2, Kapihe 2, Ponteras, Kamaka, Togiai), MS 2 (Furtado).
What a difference adding 1 player does for a team!!