Time is on the Saints’ side.
That is the element crucial to a season like no other. With a 53-37 loss to ‘Iolani in the title game of the Surfrider Holiday Hoops Classic, St. Francis (6-2) scored less than 60 points for the first time in six preseason games.
‘Iolani’s relentless, fullcourt man-to-man defense brought plenty of energy from its deep roster. But the Saints will need time to figure out ways to score during busy weeks in both nonconference and ILH Division I play. And time will help injured senior Kameron Ng, who injured an ankle in Friday’s game against host Kailua.
Ng was more than an observer on Saturday, often standing and supporting his teammates from the bench. Otherwise, he got around on crutches. He even got in a weight-training workout in the morning.
“Watching from the bench, I can see what my dad (Kekoa Ng) and Coach (Ron Durant) go through when we play bad,” he said. “I was just trying to help in any way I can.”
The All-State Fab 15 guard was averaging more than 28 points per game prior to Friday when he hurt an ankle while driving to the bucket. He had already scored 13 points in the first quarter, and the injury was severe enough that he was taken to the hospital. He will follow up with a specialist on Monday. In a best-case scenario, it is a bad sprain.
St. Francis begins ILH regular-season play on Jan. 3. In the meantime, the Saints have the OIA-ILH Challenge, which tips off on Thursday. Then there’s the ‘Iolani Classic on Dec. 18.
Ng’s injury forced the Saints to go deeper, and Kordel Ng scored 23 points in the 87-78 double-overtime semifinal win over Kailua. But the Saints were a step slower one day later against ‘Iolani.
“We didn’t have any effort tonight. I’m not going to blame it on last night, going into double overtime because to me, hustle’s not an option,” Durant said. “There was no energy. There was no effort. I think we played good defense for about 10 seconds and we had some breakdowns. ‘Iolani is well coached. They moved the ball and they made the extra passes. They waited for the opening to come to them. We were 4-for-19 from 3.”
Using fullcourt pressure to force turnovers, St. Francis cut the lead from 41-23 to 45-35 in the fourth quarter. Then Kordel Ng was whistled for two offensive fouls and Jett Tanuvasa was assessed a technical foul.
“He said Jett ‘blew through the screen,’ “ Durant said. “That was a difference maker. I don’t know how that happens.”
The good news is that even a size disadvantage, the Saints have several long-range threats. Not as easy to solve: keeping tall teams like ‘Iolani off the boards. For now, the Saints just want to get better one day at a time. The injured Ng appreciated the support he has received from family and friends.
“Thank you,” he said. “I’ll come back better and stronger.”