Kameron Ng poured in 31 points, including 11-for-14 the free-throw line in the final quarter, as St. Francis stunned Sequoia (Redwood City, Calif.) 66-61 on Thursday afternoon in the quarterfinal round of the Punahou Invitational.
It was a clutch win for the small school from Manoa Valley. The Saints, ranked No. 5 in the Star-Advertiser Boys Basketball Top 10, had lost only two games to this point, both to ILH Division I powerhouses Punahou and Kamehameha.
“We held it down in the third quarter this time,” Saints coach Ron Durant said. “We didn’t force shots. We always tell the team, we’re in ‘race’ mode, never out of control.”
It was, Durant added, perhaps a signature win for the Saints program.
“That might be one of our bigger wins,” he said.
Sequoia (7-3) entered the tourney with wins over Serra, Piedmont and another Punahou Invitational entry, Leigh. The Cherokee defeated Kamehameha-Hawaii 64-50 in the opening round on Wednesday.
Ng, a 5-foot-9 junior, was 15-for-18 at the foul line in all. He and brother Kordell Ng operated smoothly in a mix of pick-and-rolls and drive-and-dish sequences for the smaller Saints (15-2). The quicker team from Division II in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu got the visitors into foul trouble early and often. Sequoia’s hulking, nimble 6-6 standout, Ziggy Lauese, sat for most of the first three quarters. He was whistled for two early fouls and sat most of the first half. Then, he picked up his third foul with 7:47 left in the third period and sat until the fourth stanza.
That allowed St. Francis better access to the rim. In the third, the Saints shot 7-for-8 from the charity stripe and opened the lead to 40-33 entering the fourth.
Lauese, a skilled post with a package of Dream-like spin moves and jump hooks, had just two points in the first three quarters. He scored 14 points in the final quarter as the Cherokee seemed on the verge of taking control of the game. A wing 3 by Myles Nunez cut the score to 58-54, and Nunez connected on a contested 3 to slice the margin to 59-57 with a little more than 1 minute remaining.
Kameron Ng was unflappable, however. He sank two foul shots to open the lead back to four points, and Bryce Nishida added two more free throws for a 63-57 lead with 38 seconds left. After the teams exchanged one free throw each, sophomore Sam Schult drained a straightaway 3 to bring the Cherokee within 64-61.
Nishida made a crucial free throw with 18 ticks remaining for a four-point St. Francis lead. Sequoia got open looks from the arc by Nunez and Schult, but didn’t connect. Boris Vukovic added a foul shot with 2.9 seconds left for the final margin of victory.
“That’s a man. All we could do was get him in foul trouble,” Kameron Ng said of Lauese. “When he got back in the game, we couldn’t stop him.”
Kordell Ng finished with 11 points and Nishida tallied 10. The Saints shot just 33 percent from the field (15-for-45), but never stopped attacking the Cherokee man defense. St. Francis finished 28-for-40 at the foul line (70 percent) and committed just nine turnovers.
Luaus tallied 16 points and nine boards for Sequoia. Schult, who connected on four treys, finished with 14 points and Zach Bene, a 6-4 senior, added 10 points and five rebounds. The Cherokee shot 38 percent from the field (23-for-60), including 6-for-23 from the arc. They also shot 9-for-16 at the free-throw line.
Sequoia outrebounded St. Francis 30-24, grabbing a robust 17 boards on the offensive glass. However, they committed 14 of their 15 turnovers in the first three quarters.
The Saints got just enough defense from their bench to keep Lauese from doing even more damage. Reserve forward Wembley Mailei was a key contributor.
“Our bench really helped. Wembley battled against their big guy. He was a difference maker,” Durant said. “Jett (Tanuvasa) and Bubba (Akana) gave some valuable minutes and smart plays.”
The Saints also got a key block from senior Manoa Kuali‘i Moe in the final quarter.
“Manoa gives us a lot of intangibles. He’s got great hands,” Durant said. “He had a tough game against Punahou (last week), but he showed up tonight.”
St. Francis, which considered a move to Division I during the offseason, won’t see any more D-I competition after this tourney once ILH D-II regular-season play tips off next week.
“We’ll play another good team (tomorrow),” Ng said. “That’s what preseason is about, getting better. This win shows we can compete with the better teams from the mainland.”
Ng spent a good chunk of the summer working out with a mainland club team. That helped in a game like this with officials allowing a modicum of on-ball contact both ways.
“When I went there, there were a lot of strong guys, and they don’t call the (touch) fouls,” he said. “That helped me a lot.”
At Hemmeter Fieldhouse
Sequoia 12 11 10 28 — 61
St. Francis 10 14 16 26 — 66
Sequoia: Lio Lauese 0, Pedram Attari 4, Alex Baarde 0, Sam Schult 14, Zach Bene 10, Jonathan Heist 0, Dimitri Trikas 0, Jean Ayarza 2, Myles Nunez 11, Ziggy Lauese 16, PJ Lopez 2, Albert Tuakalau 0.
St. Francis: Kameron Ng 31, Kordell Ng 11, Jett Tanuvasa 2, Justus Paaluhi-Caulk 0, Boris Vukovic 3, Bryce Nishida 10, Manoa Kuali‘i-Moe 3, Wembley Mailei 2, Bubba Akana 4.
3-point goals—Sequoia 6 (Schult 4, Nunez 2), St. Francis 6 (Kam. Ng 4, Nishida 2).