Maryknoll defense impenetrable in win over Kapolei

Maryknoll's defense bottled up Kapolei throughout the Spartans' 15-point win in the state quarterfinals. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell/Star-Advertiser.

For one quarter, Kapolei had the formula to topple top-seeded Maryknoll.

Leading 13-6, the Hurricanes’ mix of man-to-man and 3-2 zone defenses had the Spartans off rhythm. The mighty champion of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu made exactly one field goal in the first quarter (1-for-9). The ‘Canes got points from five different players, none of them named Zoar Nedd. Even reserve post Kanalo Manalo scored three points on two touches on the block.

The future looked so bright.

But then reality sunk in. Ja’Shon Carter, Kapolei’s high-scoring guard, could not get untracked with Jordyn Perez covering him, and then Carter got into foul trouble. He finished the game 2-for-10 from the field, scoring four points with six turnovers.

“I took away his right hand. He’s crafty and he always goes back to the right,” Perez said. “He’s one of their main scorers, so they missed his points.”

The Spartans won going away, 57-42, in a game that started with so much promise, then wound up being a demonstration of Maryknoll’s fundamental advantages against almost any team statewide.

Kapolei’s pace was at a crawl instead of a blur. The ‘Canes couldn’t get much going with the exception of Nedd, a 6-foot-4 senior who finished with 16 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals, and Isiah Higa (13 points). The patient Spartans bided their time, and over the course of second and third quarters, Kapolei’s fizzling offense never got going.

“Zoar is so big and strong, and he’s got a high basketball IQ,” Maryknoll coach Kelly Grant said.

They stayed with their tough man defense from start to finish.

“We knew we had to defend Carter at the 3-point line,” Grant added. “We knew they weren’t a good 3-point shooting team, so we had to keep them in front of us.”

Eventually, Maryknoll’s offense figured out that 3-2 zone, using plenty of ball movement and driving to carve up the ‘Canes. Marcus Tobin scored 14 points while Makoto Kamata and Jaylen Cain scored 12 points each, and Isiah Gelacio finished with 11. Tobin, a 6-7 junior, was energized all night and grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds and swatted three shots.

“Marcus has played well the entire year. When we played Kapolei, that was his breakout game,” Grant said, referring to a 46-45 win over the Hurricanes in December. “He was hitting shots from the side. What’s good about him is he listens and takes constructive criticism well. and he dedicated himself in the weight room.”

By the end of the third quarter, Maryknoll turned a 21-20 deficit into a 38-28 lead. Without a prominent post game or 3-point attack, Kapolei scored a total of six buckets in the second and third quarters — five of them by Nedd. In the third, the Hurricanes shot 1-for-8 at the foul line.

Kamata’s ascent this season has been crucial. The 6-2 a wing who was valuable as a point guard when his backcourt mates were injured

A slam dunk by Tobin opened the lead to 42-28 early in the fourth, and bit by bit, Maryknoll’s sloppiness with the ball translated into Maryknoll baskets. Nedd’s final points, a follow shot on a fastbreak, cut the lead to 47-42 with 2:12 remaining.

“I told our team, ‘you’re seniors. Relax. You’ve been here before,’” Grant said.

Then Maryknoll hit their final six foul shots and put the game away with a 10-0 run. In the fourth period, the Spartans shot 9-for-10 from the charity stripe.

Maryknoll also finished with 11 offensive rebounds.

“A zone team isn’t usually a good rebounding team,” Grant said, referring to Kapolei’s 3-2 zone.

More than ever, the No. 1 seed looks like a team without a serious flaw. Need a 3? They have capable long-range gunners in Kamata and Gelacio, even Perez. Need to attack the rim? Cain did his share in the first half, getting to the line and making all four of his free-throw tries. Need to protect the rim? Tobin, Cain, even Kamata challenged just about everything in the paint.

Add the torrent of offensive rebounds, plus solid ballhandling by Perez, Gelacio and Kamata against Kapolei’s occasional fullcourt pressure, and it is not easy to exploit any part of Maryknoll’s game. Perez’s emergence as a stopper — he had six rebounds, four assists and four steals — is almost unfair.

“Defense, to me, is about having heart. Wanting to shut your man down and having pride in it,” Perez said.

Grant looked ahead to Thursday’s semifinal matchup with Kahuku.

“They’re a good team. One thing that I notice, they got a chance to rest their starters for quite awhile. We had to play our starters the whole game,” he said. “They’ve got Tolu Smith and they’ve got guys who attack the basket, guys who can shoot, and their football guys are strong so we’ve got to be able to man up with them on the boards. We’ve got to figure out a way to defend Tolu. 32 (Marcus Damuni), he’s gotten a whole lot better.”

At some point, perhaps early in the morning, maybe long before that, the coach gets his team’s mind-set focused.

“I usually send them a text about our approach and what we want to think about. We need a tough mentality and we can outskill almost everybody, but Kahuku is big and tough. If we let them push us around, it’s going to be over.”

Grant asked about his team’s turnover total. It was 11, a relatively low number.

“At Kaimuki, we were down to 5-6 turnovers (per game) going into the state tournament with teams trying to press us,” he said, referring to the state title team in 2003. “We had Daniel Colon and Daniel Madamba. Jordyn and Isiah, they’re like clones. Good ball handers like that team.”

Division I

Match #DateMatchupTime/ScoresSite
1Feb. 12Konawaena vs. MoanaluaMoan, 62-52Konawaena
2Feb. 12Kahuku vs. KailuaKah, 54-38Kahuku
3Feb. 12Punahou vs. McKinleyPun, 59-39Punahou
4Feb. 12KS-Maui vs. KapoleiKapo, 49-34KS-Maui
5Feb. 14(1) Maryknoll vs. KapoleiMryk, 57-42Moanalua
6Feb. 14(4) KS-Hawaii vs. KahukuKah, 62-37Moanalua
7Feb. 14(2) Kalaheo vs. MoanaluaMoan, 52-50McKinley
8Feb. 14(3) Lahainaluna vs. PunahouPun, 50-40McKinley
9*Feb. 15Kapolei vs. KS-HawaiiKapo, 57-54Stan Sheriff Center
10*Feb. 15Kalaheo vs. LahainalunaLah, 61-50Stan Sheriff Center
11Feb. 15Maryknoll vs. KahukuKah, 49-43Stan Sheriff Center
12Feb. 15Moanalua vs. PunahouPun, 75-69Stan Sheriff Center
13*Feb. 16Kapolei vs. LahainalunaLah, 57-55Stan Sheriff Center
14*Feb. 16Maryknoll vs. MoanaluaMryk, 67-52Stan Sheriff Center
15Feb. 16Kahuku vs. PunahouPun, 64-37Stan Sheriff Center
* — consolation


  1. Last Samurai February 15, 2018 4:51 am

    Sad to see Kapolei wilt at the end of their season in the playoffs. So much talent but in this game, Maryknoll outplayed, out coached them. Underachievers, they became what their football program has been; best talent in the state but never played to their potential. They’ll reflect back years down the road, “Could of, Would of, Should of!”.

  2. Last Samurai February 15, 2018 4:53 am

    BTW, Congratulations to Coach Grant and the Spartans on their quest to the state championship. Kaimuki HS sends their kudos.

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