The transition to Division I isn’t that tough for Damien.
The Monarchs won the D-II state title last year with a team that was ranked in the Top 5 from beginning to end. One of their wins was a in a preseason tilt with eventual D-I state champion Maryknoll.
Right now, though, the road is bumpy. After three games in the state’s toughest D-I boys basketball league, the Monarchs are 1-2 and not happy at all. A 61-56 loss at No. 2 Kamehameha on Thursday night showcased all Damien does well and not so well. Kamehameha used its extensive depth to keep pressure on the Monarchs from start to finish.
The result was 21 turnovers by the visitors, while Kamehameha had just eight. Only two came after the first quarter for the home team.
“I love our team. I love our bench,” Warriors coach Larry Park said.
Damien ran into foul trouble, too. Jake Holtz fouled out in the fourth quarter just as the Monarchs had gained momentum. They trailed 38-23 early in the third quarter and reversed that into a 43-42 lead going into the fourth. Tino Atonio exploded for 11 points, including three treys, during the third. Holtz was 3-for-3 from the field in the same period, and then stoked a 3 early in the fourth.
However, moments after he took a charge from Kamehameha guard Nawelo Rowland, he committed his fifth foul on a charge of his own on a fastbreak. Without Holtz, Damien never recovered, though the score stayed close in the final minutes.
With Damien down 58-56, Jarvis Natividad had an open 3, but missed. The Monarchs had drawn up a play for Atonio, a 6-foot-5 junior, to score inside, but Natividad was wide open.
“He’s been working a lot on his shot. It’s one of those, if he makes it, great,” Damien coach Alvin Stephenson said.
Christmas Togiai was Mr. Reliable with 18 points, four rebounds and five assists. He had missed three of his four tries at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, but made three of his final four as Kamehameha put the game out of reach. Togiai finished 9-for-14 at the charity stripe.
“That’s Chris. He’ll make them when they really count. He has that winning, competitive mentality. I’ve got confidence in him, our whole team got confidence in him to make those free throws when it counts,” Park said.
Stephenson, meanwhile, was cranky after the game. Damien dropped to 1-2 with losses to Punahou and, now, Kamehameha.
“It’s really tough when these refs pick on us. We’ve got refs that take things personal. If people watch the game, they see there’s a target on us,” Stephenson said. “I’m very satisfied with how we played, but this game, and the Punahou game (on Tuesday) was even worse. It’s hard to tell 16-year-olds.”
The departure of Jydon “Boogie” Hall is felt most in these titanic battles in the ILH. Hall moved to Georgia to live with his father, and though point guard Hayden Bayudan had a solid game, Damien as a whole committed 13 more turnovers than Kamehameha.
The Warriors gave Damien plenty of opportunities, however, by shooting just 12-for-24 at the foul line.
At Kekuhaupio Gymnasium
Damien (10-8, 1-2 ILH) 14 9 20 13 — 56
Kamehameha (15-5, 2-0 ILH) 15 19 8 19 – 61
DMS: Haden Bayudan 5, Jarvis Natividad 3, Kenneth Mitchell Jr. 4, Calvin Nakamura 0, Micah Chung 0, Tino Atonio 14, Bryce Forbes 16, Jake Holtz 14, Jackson Harrington 0.
KS: Kordel Ng 17, Nawelo Rowland 0, Preston Ponteras 6, Oni Pung 3 Braden Defries 0, Paliku Kamaka 11, Christmas Togiai 18, EJ Kapihe 2, Koa Kanoho 0, Xavier Lever 1, Bailey Lee 3.
3-point goals—DMS 3 (Atonio 2, Holtz), KS 7 (Kamaka 3, Ng 2, Pung, Togiai).