Liko Soares scored 13 points and Niko Robben had 12 as No. 1 Maryknoll survived a big ‘Iolani comeback for a 40-31 win at T.C. Ching Gymnasium on Friday night.
Defending state champion Maryknoll (17-1) is now 1-0 in ILH play.
“We finished the game. We took care of the ball and got ourselves to the free-throw line and made some free throws,” Spartans coach Kelly Grant said. “We played some close games on the mainland which helped us dealing with those kinds of pressures.”
Wes Yamada led ‘Iolani with 10 points. The visitors rallied from a 12-point deficit to take a one-point lead early in the fourth quarter.
“We gave ourselves a chance after we got our legs under us in the first half,” Raiders coach Ryan Hirata said. “But to beat Maryknoll and everyone else in the ILH, you’ve got to play two halves. You can’t make mistakes against Maryknoll ‘cause of their stingy defense.”
The Spartans returned from a runner-up finish in The Damien Classic (Silver Division) on Tuesday and opened tonight’s game with a 28-16 halftime lead.
That’s when the visiting Raiders scrapped their way back with tough man-to-man defense on the relatively young backcourt of the Spartans. ‘Iolani shut out the home team 11-0 in the third quarter, getting five points from their stretch-5, Andrew Dawson. His first trey cut the lead to 28-23 with 3:44 left in the third.
Maryknoll’s lead was down to 28-27 by the end of the third stanza.
“I told them, they have to match ‘Iolani’s intensity. ‘Iolani always comes out playing with a lot of intensity, a lot of physicality. I didn’t think our boys matched that,” Grant said. “When Niko got his fourth foul, we unraveled a little bit. But when he came back on the floor, we regained out composure.”
After Dawson hit a corner 3 on a feed from Yamada, the Raiders had their first lead of the game, 30-29, with 5:55 remaining.
It didn’t last long. The Spartans shut out the visitors for the next 5 minutes and 39 seconds. Robben scored on a drive, and the Spartans shot well enough from the free-throw line — 6-for-11 — to put the game away. ‘Iolani shot 1-for-4 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter.
Down 38-30, the Raiders broke the scoring drought on a free throw by Devan Fujinaka with 16 seconds remaining. Soares scored a layup on a long pass in the final seconds for the final margin.
“We’ve got to clean up some stuff and get ready for Mid-Pacific on Tuesday,” Hirata said.
Maryknoll will take on the Owls, who lost on Friday night in overtime to Damien, on Saturday. The Spartans will visit MPI on Saturday.
“They’re a formidable team. Everybody in our league is,” Grant said. “We’ll have our walk-through tomorrow (before) the game.”