LIVE BLOG: #8 Mules 65, #7 Crusaders 46, F

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Here we go. The Moanalua OIA-ILH Challenge tips off in 10 minutes. A quadrupleheader each night for three nights in a row. That’s a good deal.

First game matches No. 7 Saint Louis and No. 8 Leilehua. I’ll be blogging the games that I’m not statting for print, which means three of four games tonight will be posted here live. It’s warm and toasty in here on this sunny Hawaiian winter day. Temperature is 84 degrees with 56-percent humidity.

Last time I saw Saint Louis, center Tristan Nichols got into early foul trouble and wasn’t a major factor in a close win over Moanalua at the James Alegre Invitational. Leilehua, as expected, has been solid through preseason with the return key players like PG Joseph Gouty and SG Liam Fitzgerald.

Today’s matchups:
4 p.m. No. 7 Saint Louis vs. No. 8 Leilehua
5:30 p.m. No. 1 ‘Iolani vs. Mililani
7 p.m. No. 3 Kaiser vs. No. 6 Kamehameha
8:30 p.m. No. 2 Punahou vs. Moanalua

When these teams met on Saturday at the Alegre tourney, Saint Louis won 58-50.

Mules have come out running hard. Gouty with two quick dimes on the break for a 6-0 lead. Time out, STL.

STL facing a tall LEI team. The Mules are in man defense with a lot of switching; having good, long athletes gives Coach Fitzgerald that luxury. Two forced shots and a travel so far for the Crusaders. Coach Pat Wetzel, who stepped down after last season, is on the bench for the game. STL yet to call a specific play for Nichols, who is built like Wes Unseld and has soft hands.

Jaymason Nunuha swishes an NBA-distance trey from the top, but LEI leads 10-5 with 4:00 to go in the quarter. Coach Fitzsimmons imploring his team to apply fullcourt pressure. Lot of good energy by the Mules and their bench. Saint Louis trying to up its transition offense, but Jett Tanuvasa is called for a charge.

STL very klunky in the halfcourt offense. Nichols had Gouty (6 feet) in the post, but STL opted for a 17-foot baseline miss. Then they tried to pass inside, pass was flat, deflected and off LEI went on the break.

Liam Fitzgerald is a sophomore now, much stronger and more explosive. Steal and dunk by him, Mules lead 14-7. Time out STL 1:50.

It will take some time for STL to gel with these new and returning pieces. LEI has several returnees from last season’s state-tourney team.

STL finally gets the ball on the low post to Nichols and FOUR Mules immediately collapse on him. He pivots and finds Nunuha open on the opposite corner for an all-net 3. Then Nunuha comes up with a midcourt steal and scores, cutting the lead to 16-10. Another 3 by STL cuts the lead to 18-15 as the quarter ends.

Gouty stepping up. Tough bank shot in traffic, showing a lot of strength bouncing off a big man. Then a steal and layup. LEI leads 22-15.

Haven’t seen Isaac Slade-Matautia yet. That’s a key difference between STL today and last week. Leilehua’s switching defense really putting a lid on Saint Louis. Second charge of the game just got called. But what Coach Fitzgerald has drawn up is working really well against a STL team that was offensively potent during the Alegre tourney last week. LEI leads 24-18 with 5:27 to go.

Nichols finally scores on a putback on a missed 3 from the corner. Leilehua’s first real breakdown in the paint so far. LEI 24-20. Then Gouty travels on a drive to the bucket. Time out, LEI, 4:14.

Nichols with an offensive board off a miss by Tanuvasa for another layup. This is not going to work for Leilehua if they leave him alone like this. He is active and patient today, not a single foul so far. LEI 24-22.

Lance Sataraka’s 16-foot baseline J ties the game at 24, but the Mules hustle after a missed 3 by Fitzgerald and feed A.J. Gainwell, who knocks down his first trey of the game from the left corner. Over a 2-3 zone. Next possession, the Mules spread the floor and hit Gainwell again in the same spot for another 3. STL just left him alone. LEI 30-24, 1:25.

Tanuvasa drives baseline and scores on a 5-foot floater. LEI scores with 6 seconds left in the half on a wide-open layup. LEI leads at the half 32-26.

The menu at the girls game here last night (McKinley-Moanalua) included some juicy kal bi. Today, different crew. They have pork gisantes and (on the way) shoyu chicken. That will be dinner later.

Sataraka scores inside before LEI goes on a 7-0 run. Koa Kauhi feeds Fitzgerald for a 22-foot trey from the top, and Gainwell scores on a fastbreak feed from Gouty to cap the run. LEI leads 39-28.

Fitzgerald putback on a 3-point miss by Kauhi and its 41-29. Nunhua hits a foul shot, then Chris Sykes follows with a layup to cut the lead to 41-32. No question Leilehua’s length is a definite factor, especially with STL missing Slade-Matautia: Kauhi is 6-foot-6, Trey Boatwright 6-2, Gainwell 6-1, Fitzgerald 6-5, Nicholas Duran 6-2.

STL applying fullcourt pressure after Zach Choo’s drive and layup cuts it to 41-34, but the Mules break it. Gouty feeds Duran for a layup, 43-34.

Boatwright’s hustle is infectious. He hits a foul shot, and later scores a bucket on a follow shot. LEI 48-37.

Quarter ends with Leilehua ahead 48-38.

Tough shot by STL is blocked, LEI rebounds and Fitzgerald swishes the transition 3 on a feed from Gainwell. Nice unselfish basketball. LEI 51-38.

STL now denying Gouty fullcourt. Interesting to see how this plays out. Duran hits an open 3 from the top, and Gouty feeds Kauhi for a layup on the break. Gouty then scores on a putback and LEI leads 58-41.

Fitzgerald is wide open on a transition pass from reserve guard Keion Anderson. LEI 61-42. Time out STL 5:00.

1:24 left and the Mules sit the remainder of their starting five. They wanted this win bad, no doubt. After losing last weekend to the Crusaders, they will win this rematch decisively. Is Isaac Slade-Matautia that big of a difference-maker? Possibly.

Saint Louis coach Allan Silva said that Slade-Matautia is busy with a Physics class assignment.

“That’s more important than this game,” he said.

Gouty had 12 points and, by my count, six assists. Fitzgerald finished with 13 points, including three treys. Duran added nine points off the bench. Kauhi was big today with 12 points. Defensively, he gave Nichols a tough time on almost every touch.

Tanuvasa had nine points for the Crusaders. Nunuha had nine of his 12 points in the first half. I wonder how much more effective the offense would be if he slashed more. He didn’t really touch the ball a lot. Maybe he sat after tweaking his ankle.

Sataraka had six points. He has a nice mid-range shot and I’d like to see him shoot a little more. Nichols tallied nine points. I think that will be his season-low. If he gets more touches and is more decisive with the ball, he could lead the ILH in scoring. The Crusaders will need that kind of output from him in the state’s toughest league this season.


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