Maryknoll cuts down the net once again

Maryknoll guard Payton Grant (5) cut the net down after winning the ILH championship. Photo by Steven Erler/Special to the Star-Advertiser.

The Maryknoll players were all in super-high spirits soon after their ILH championship-clinching 55-42 home victory over Punahou on Monday night.

Intense coach Kelly Grant was seen relaxing — imagine that? — in a chair while the Spartans used a ladder to do the net-cutting.

Two titles in a row. That doesn’t happen very often at the private Catholic school. Actually, it hasn’t been done since coach Tony Sellitto did the trick in the early 1980s. Sellitto, fittingly, was in the house to watch it. He had already left the building, though, by the time the net came down.

“I’m so happy right now,” wrecking-ball center Liko Soares said. “I want to go celebrate with my teammates.”

Soares scored 13 points in the middle, as did Payton Grant, to lead the offense.

“Liko is tough,” coach Grant said. “Sometimes, it’s tough to get him on the floor. We usually rotate him with Marcus Tobin, but when Marcus gets in foul trouble, Liko is in there. When Liko is on the floor, he is almost unstoppable once he touches the ball near the basket.”

The Spartans’ calling card is defense.

“We’re really good at what we do defensively,” the coach said. “It’s a luxury to coach this kind of team.”

The next stop for both top-ranked Maryknoll and No. 2 Punahou is the state Division I tournament.

“We tell the boys that the ILH championship is for me and the coaching staff,” Grant said. “We prepare for the entire season and try to beat the ILH. They know this one is for us. Anything past that, the state, is for them. We don’t know who we’re playing. It’s day-before kind of preparation. The kids have a lot of knowledge and we put a lot of stuff on their plates. We’ve got to make sure that they’re at their high peak and jelling when we get to the state tournament.”

Maryknoll coach Kelly Grant cut the last string to release the net after winning the ILH title on Monday. Photo by Steven Erler/Special to the Star-Advertiser.

Guard Makoto Kamata verified that his team is looking down the road at getting that big one. If the Spartans (13-1) can do it, it will be the first state title since 1984 — 35 years ago.

“It’s so great to come back and win (the ILH) this year,” he said. “We didn’t win states last year, so we want to win it this year.”

The Buffanblu (11-4) know they’ve got things to work on.

“We didn’t come through and do our part tonight,” Punahou’s Tamatoa Falatea said. “Maryknoll played better than us and they deserved that win. We need to take better care of the ball, take better care that every possession has worth and improve our team chemistry.”

Jakob Kimura and Peyton Macapulay scored nine points apiece to lead the Buffanblu.

The two teams could meet again, if they can both advance to the state-title game.

“We really gotta work on us,” Punahou coach Darren Matsuda said. “We’re still not in sync. When you play a really good team like Maryknoll, it shows. All the things you cut corners on or whatnot — because we haven’t been sharp — it shows. We have a week to sharpen it up and get better.”

Maryknoll guard Makoto Kamata (21) took a shot while being defended by Punahou guard Kaulana Makaula (20) and center Duke Clemens (33) during the first half. Photo by Steven Erler/Special to the Star-Advertiser.


  1. ??? February 12, 2019 7:38 am

    Congratulations to Marynoll.
    But why are people surprised?
    The ILH will always be dominant because of recruiting!
    Look at what happened when Kahuku got ONE recruit “FOTU” they won a championship and ILH fans were crying that Kahuku recruited.
    Facts are Facts: The ILH will always be dominant!

  2. Basketballife February 12, 2019 9:26 am

    Congratulations Spartan Nation!!!! Well deserved and well played, held Punahou to five points up til the last three minutes of the first half lastnight. Now time to get the one that got away last year. These boy’s worked their tails off and it goes to show that hard work pays off.

    As to the fact about recruiting in the ILH, you can’t help the fact that these kids or their parents for that matter, want their kids to attend private schools, and get a private school education, where they’ll be in an environment that promotes college education and higher learning, and to be surrounded by students that think that way too. As parents we want what’s best for our kids.

    However, once in a while there’s always a special group of kids that bring home the State Crown to the OIA and the Outer Islands. Kelly Grant did it at Kaimuki….Kahuku did it in 2016 And by the way Kahuku didn’t get only one recruit, you’re forgetting two guys that were probably better than Fotu that year, Jessiya Avilla(POY) and Samuta Avea, both UH Basketball Commits/Players.

  3. hiusername February 12, 2019 1:45 pm

    punahou’s bully #20 should have been ejected!

  4. ilh February 12, 2019 5:25 pm

    If you can’t handle little pushing /shoving…..go bowl…..that’s a varsity sport in HI ?? LOL

  5. Mr. Okada February 12, 2019 6:39 pm

    @ BasketballLife

    Don’t forget the time Grant had that one team with the 6’9″ German kid, two NZ transfers, a two future state POYs with GIlmore and Bennett … and still lost in the finals. If Grant doesn’t get a state title, that would be two years in a row where Maryknoll gets the one seed and doesn’t deliver the title. Luckily for Grant, this isn’t college.


    You’re right… when all things are “status quo”, the league with the most talent will always be hands down the ILH. My opinion is the only reason the last two boy’s state finals games weren’t all-ILH was because Kahuku outrecruited the ILH “bluebloods” at their own recruiting game the last two seasons. I agree, though, that 2017 team with Fotu, Villa, and Avea was crazy stacked! I can’t think of another Hawai’i team that had THREE d1 recruits at the same time.

  6. Pick N Roll February 12, 2019 10:19 pm

    Congratulations Maryknoll Spartans!

    #40 – low post can be used for more than a scoring punch. The best interior big men can force double-teams, which opens up passing lanes to cutters and spot-up shooters, generally two of the most efficient scoring-play types. The impact player was the right choice if you ask me. Scoring, rebounds, this kid does way more. Watch him good – hands down – highest basketball IQ – I’ve seen in a big man. He knows how to use his body, he’s a skillful passer, and he’s defensive is spot on. Rumor has it his plus/minus stat is a +22 – that kid should be in most of the game. Love watching simple basketball – feed the big man!!!! PICK AND ROLL ALL DAY!

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