Might be the best matchup of the night — Mid-Pacific/Kailua title game at the Surfrider Holiday Classic withstanding. This is the fourth day of the James Alegre Invitational. The final game.
Saint Louis is 3-0 so far in the tourney. Moanalua has one loss, to No. 1 Punahou.
Moanalua and Saint Louis are unranked. I suppose that could change very soon. I’ve yet to see the Crusaders, guided by first-year head coach Allan Silva, so this is going to be fun.
Some interesting things happening. Saint Louis is playing 2-3 zone, but selectively applying tight on-ball pressure. Nichols? He’s as good as I remember at states last year, but he’s bigger and that’s mostly muscle. He has scored seven points already. STL leads 9-4. He has scored on a lefty reverse layup and a righty reverse layup (three-point play). He does something most bigs don’t do defensively: he gets his position, stands his ground and keeps his arms completely straight up.
Nichols picked up his second foul with :42 left, an offensive foul. On the next STL possession, he committed his third foul after an errant entry pass by a teammate. Not good for the Crusaders, who seemed to have control of this game.
Quarter ends with STL up 11-6. Moanalua lost to Punahou 66-51 the other night at this tourney. Measuring stick? Mmmmmaybe.
Crusaders switch from zone to man and it’s a good fit so far. Jaymason Nunuha back in the game. Post Chris Sykes getting a lot of run. Isaac Slade-Matautia is EVERYWHERE. Extremely physical, occasionally punishing defensively as he challenges every shot possible. Should note that Moanalua pressed in the first quarter, but STL handled it relatively well with young Jet Tanuvasa at the point.
MOA had the lead down to two, but Saint Louis has tightened up defensively with this group on the floor. STL 16, MOA 9, 4:28.
Nunuha give-and-go with Slade-Matautia for a fastbreak layup. Nice. STL 20, MOA 12.
Tempo is nice and fast. Saige Pulu, formerly of Maryknoll, is a big post instead of a wing now, and he’s good at it. Baseline J, three-point play. Then on the next play, a mid-court steal, drives for a runner, another three-point play. Woh, maybe he really is still a wing who just happens to play the post.
Another Pulu steal, feeds a teammate, layup, MOA goes up 24-22. Time out STL 1:37. Ooohlala, we got a game. However this half ends, Nichols will be back in the second half. Pulu struggled in the post in the first quarter with Nichols standing in the way.
Nichols picks up his fourth foul with 5:22 left. Pulu was strong in the low post and caught Nichols with his arms slightly leaning down. Silva left Nichols in for another minute before pulling him. Pulu did drive baseline against Nichols one time before that trying to get another foul, but was called for traveling. A minute later, Pulu was called for a foul on a free-throw rebound, and then he was assessed a technical foul. He left the game, too.
The score was 38-32 when those two key players sat down.
Slade-Matautia playing big. Scores inside, then steals a pass for a tough layup in traffic. STL 42-35.
Third quarter ends with STL ahead 46-35.
James Wilkins scores seven points in a row, including a corner 3 over the zone, to rally MOA within 48-44, but that’s it. They’re out of shots.
Tanuvasa got hot, hitting three runners in a row in the middle of the paint, to help STL open a 56-46 lead. Junior guard Zach Woo was a key contributor off the bench, helping break MOA’s relentless press. He scored a big bucket and took some of the pressure off Tanuvasa.
Nichols commits his fifth foul with about a minute left on a disputed charging call. STL bench really didn’t think Pulu, the defender, had established position.