When Kordel Ng decided to transfer to Kamehameha from St. Francis, which closed its doors last year, it immediately gave the Warriors two of the best players in the state with him and Christmas Togiai.
It couldn’t have been more evident in Wednesday’s ILH championship game at Kekuha’upio Gym against Maryknoll that the Warriors’ 13-0 run through a gauntlet of tough opponents was about much more than just its two superstars.
With Ng and Togiai shooting a combined 4-for-20 from the field for 15 points, the rest of the crew came up big with Preston Ponteras hitting two big 3s, post Bailey Lee diving on the floor for steals and a clutch putback to end the first quarter, and Paliku Kamaka splashing a huge 3 late in the third quarter after Maryknoll had cut a 10-point halftime deficit to three.
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Kamehameha held Maryknoll to one field goal in the final 8 minutes, 37 seconds and pulled out a 38-29 win to earn the coveted No. 1 seed in the state tournament — and the ILH championship that goes with it.
“We know if we (Ng and Togiai) aren’t there then the rest of the team is going to pick up the slack. That’s how we work,” Togiai said. “I think all of the underclassmen stepped up really big. They don’t play like underclassmen.”
Kamehameha (13-0) shot 30.2% (13-for-43) from the field to give Maryknoll (10-4) a chance to win a third consecutive ILH title.
The Spartans struggled even worse from the field, shooting 27.8% (10-for-36) including 1-for-9 from 3-point range.
“They are a good team with great players and some of it is missed shots,” Kamehameha coach Larry Park. “The ILH is a grind and the fatigue is there. They had to play Monday and probably had a little bit of fatigue.”
Maryknoll post Sage Tolentino was the only player to finish in double figures with 10 points and Nikolas Robben added eight points and six boards but was 3-for-12 from the field.
He had two point-blank shots in the paint with 20 seconds left but missed them both, summing up Maryknoll’s night.
“They hit shots, we didn’t,” Maryknoll coach Kelly Grant said. “They’re just a really good shooting team and well coached.”
Kamehameha did make five of 16 from the 3-point line, which made a difference.
Togiai picked up his fourth foul with 18 seconds left in the third quarter and had to sit out for part of the fourth quarter. He returned to the game with 4:28 remaining after Kamehameha missed its first four shots in the period and got another quick breather before returning to close it out.
“Not letting it get to me and just staying on the bench, staying involved in the game, calling out plays and feeding off their energy kept me going in the game,” Togiai said.
Maryknoll will open the state tournament with a home game on Monday against Kalaheo while Kamehameha receives a bye into the quarterfinals on Wednesday and will play the winner between Leilehua and Waiakea.
For the full Division I state tournament bracket, click here.