The ILH Division I boys basketball standings got tighter at the top while taking on a more stratified look over the last two nights.
A night after Punahou was handed its first loss of the regular season, ‘Iolani closed the gap on the Buffanblu with a 49-43 win over Saint Louis on Wednesday while creating separation for second place.
The win moved the Raiders (5-2) one game behind Punahou with three games to play, including a meeting with the Buffanblu set for Feb. 3 at Hemmeter Fieldhouse.
After posting its third straight win, ‘Iolani is also two games ahead of Saint Louis and Maryknoll with Kamehameha and Mid-Pacific another game back.
“It takes some time to figure ourselves out, for our guys to figure out their teammates, and I feel like that’s coming along now,” ‘Iolani coach Dean Shimamoto said. “I gotta be happy with where we’re at but at the same time we have a lot more room for improvement.”
‘Iolani, the reigning state champion, cut into Punahou’s edge in the standings with a balanced effort that allowed the Raiders to protect their lead against Saint Louis in Wednesday’s game at McCabe Gym.
The Raiders saw a 14-point second-quarter lead chopped to two in the third. But each time Saint Louis threatened, a different Raider provided a play that kept the Crusaders at arm’s length.
While center Kamu Borden led the Raiders with 10 points, the contributions were spread throughout the nine-player rotation.
“I think that’s the type of team we are and I think that’s the type of program we are,” Shimamoto said.
After Saint Louis cut ‘Iolani’s eight-point halftime lead to four early in the third quarter, Zack Gelacio drained a 3-pointer from the top. The Crusaders crept even closer later in the period when Jimmy Nunuha hit a 3 to cut the lead to 30-28. Point guard Erik Yamada then earned a trip to the free-throw line, where he hit one of two attempts, and later found Borden under the basket for a layup with 1.3 seconds left in the period.
Saint Louis went 2-for-10 from 3-point range in the first half and attacked the basket in the second half led by Kevin Marks, scored a game-high 18 points.
Marks led the Crusaders back again in the fourth quarter and hit a 3-pointer with 2:47 left that cut the lead to 39-36. Robby Mann drew a foul and hit both free throws and the Raiders went on to hit 10 of 12 from the line in the final 1:39.
While Shimamoto said the Raiders are learning to close out games, Saint Louis coach Keith Spencer is looking for ways to help the Crusaders regain their edge and break out of a three-game skid going into Saturday’s game at Punahou.
“Right now we’re in a slump,” Spencer said. “We’re trying to mentally get the kids to how we started but it’s going to take some time. Right now it’s more of a psychological thing and losing does that, especially the ones we’ve been losing, the close ones. Right now I have to put on my psychologist cap.”
Following are the remaining regular-season schedules for the top four teams in the standings. The winner of the regular season secures one of the league’s two Division I state tournament berths.
Saturday — Saint Louis
Feb. 3 — ‘Iolani
Feb. 10 — at Mid-Pacific
Saturday — Kamehameha
Feb. 3 — at Punahou
Feb. 10 — Maryknoll
Saturday — Mid-Pacific
Feb. 4 — Kamehameha
Feb. 10 — at ‘Iolani
Saint Louis (3-4)
Saturday — at Punahou
Feb. 2 — Mid-Pacific
Feb. 10 — Kamehameha