Buff Nation brought some of the top basketball talent in the state.
Saint Louis answered the call, getting key defensive stops and timely shooting from Jydon Hall and Aiva Arquette in a 70-61 exhibition win on Friday night at Clarence T.C. Ching Athletic Center.
Saint Louis is now 10-0 in exhibition games, all at their brand-new gym.
“We feel great. We have a couple of games left,” Hall said. “We need to close out strong and show everyone how hard we worked.”
Arquette poured in 28 points and Hall scored 11 of his 17 points in the second quarter as Saint Louis went on a major run that turned a two-point margin to a 31-15 lead before halftime.
“I felt like we just need a spark. We came out a little slow,” Hall said. “I’m glad our team pulled together and trusted me with the ball to provide that spark.”
Buff Nation, comprised of Punahou players, mounted a rally in the third quarter as a wing 3 by Ryder Hsiung ignited a rally. Drake Watanabe scored 10 of his 19 points in the third, bringing the visitors within 36-31 with 5:10 left in the quarter. Their fullcourt pressure slowed the Crusaders, but didn’t derail them.
Arquette caught fire with 13 points in the third, including three 3-pointers. After Hall scored off a steal, the Crusaders had a 51-36 lead.
“This whole season, I was waiting for the spark to come in. They’re the best team we’ve played in this bubble season, I was happy about getting it going,” Arquette said.
Buff Nation gave its young reserves, including six freshmen, plenty of playing time. They pulled within seven early in the fourth quarter, but Malu Ing answered with a corner 3 as Saint Louis stretched the lead back to 12 points at 62-50. Free throws by Hall and AJ Bianco helped seal a hard-earned win for the Crusaders.
Ing finished with 12 points.
“It was a good game. They were definitely competitive,” Saint Louis Coach Dan Hale said. “We just got a little hotter than them in the third quarter when Aiva and (Watanabe) were trading baskets. They have a really solid freshman class. They hung in there. That’s why these games are so important. Nobody’s winning championships, but you get them experience while you get the seniors out there, too.”
Bianco was a force in the paint with seven rebounds and plenty of grit. The football quarterback saved his team a possession by diving out of bounds on a fourth-quarter play and using his golden arm to bean the ball off a Buff Nation player’s leg.
“AJ is a player. He’s tough and he fills up the middle,” Hale said of the 6-foot-3 junior. “He rebounds and he can get going on offense with his old-school moves. Step-throughs and pump fakes, just real solid.”
Peyton Macapulay had nine points and seven assists for Buff Nation.
Saint Louis has three games lined up next week as “Season 1” and the basketball exhibition journey comes to a close.