Kelly Grant didn’t hesitate when asked if his No. 1-ranked Maryknoll boys basketball team has exceeded expectations after losing three All-State Fab 15 players to graduation.
“Not at all,” the Maryknoll head coach said. “I’m not going to take anything away from last year’s seniors but this group right here — their basketball IQ is really high. When you have 6-foot-3 (players) across the board and a 6-foot-7 guy (Marcus Tobin), we can break down a bit and still recover and defend other teams.”
Maryknoll did exactly that in a matchup of the top two teams in the state according to the latest Honolulu Star-Advertiser Top 10. The Spartans scored a convincing win over No. 2 ‘Iolani, 65-47, on Tuesday night in the final regular-season home game for the Spartans.
All five seniors on the roster were in the starting lineup and Kalai Akaka scored all 16 of his points in the second and third quarters to all but wrap up the regular-season crown with two games to go.
Maryknoll (9-1) has a two-game lead over ‘Iolani and Punahou and needs a win over either Mid-Pacific or Kamehameha in the next four days to lock in the first of three state-tournament berths up for grabs in the ILH this season.
Makoto Kamata finished with 14 points, six rebounds and a steal, Tobin added 10 points and six rebounds and Payton Grant did a little bit of everything with six points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Even the fifth senior, Tyler Brooke, got in on the action with a late 3-pointer and five points in the fourth quarter.
All five players were honored on Senior night after an impressive win. Maryknoll, which gave up 14 made 3-pointers to ‘Iolani in a 62-54 win in the first regular-season meeting earlier this month, held the Raiders to just 15 made field goals in the entire game.
‘Iolani hit just five shots from the 3-point line with two coming from reserve Andrew Dawson after Raiders coach Dean Shimamoto emptied the bench down 16 with three minutes remaining.
It was ‘Iolani’s most lopsided loss of the season.
“(Maryknoll is) long so they make it difficult to make shots,” Shimamoto said. “They’re really tough defensively. We score a lot of points. We shoot the ball pretty well but they covered a lot of things we like to do and really shut us down offensively.”
‘Iolani threw a lot of different looks at Maryknoll defensively, mixing up man-to-man with a 3-2 zone and halfcourt and fullcourt pressure, but couldn’t overcome 1-for-10 shooting from the field in the first quarter to fall behind 10-3.
Maryknoll extended its largest lead to 19 two different times in the third quarter on baskets by Kamata.
The Spartans finished the game 18-for-26 from the free-throw line, including 10-for-15 in the final quarter. It wasn’t quite the 31-for-34 they shot from the charity stripe in the first regular-season meeting, but it didn’t matter.
“I’m expecting to play them again, maybe a couple more times,” Shimamoto said. “Gives us some things to work on.”
‘Iolani closes its regular season with the third-ranked Buffanblu on Thursday and Kamehameha on Monday.