No. 1 Sierra Canyon survives a big scare by ‘Iolani

Sierra Canyon coach Andre Chevalier talks with his team during a time out on Monday night at the ‘Iolani Classic. The Trailblazers rallied past ‘Iolani in the second half for a 66-49 win. Paul Honda/

There will be games when Andre Chevalier can relax just a smidge and empty his bench during a game.

Monday was not one of those times. With Bronny James on the bench in foul trouble, No. 1-ranked Sierra Canyon trailed 33-29 early in the second half before exploding for a 66-49 win over host ‘Iolani in the quarterfinal round of the ‘Iolani Prep Classic.

“It’s effort, focus and toughness. Execution. Making free throws,” Chevalier said. “We have the next man up mentality. When people go down, somebody has to step up and play.”

With James in foul trouble, it was 6-5 Ramel Lloyd who pulled all the right strings. In peak-Lamar Odom fashion, he was everywhere defensively, and was a connector on offense. Lloyd finished with 20 points and four rebonds, but his imprint was on everything.

“Ramel has the ability to play all five positions on the floor for us and today he did that very well. Played a little defense, rebounded the ball, definitely knocked down open shots,” Chevalier said.

The Raiders struggled to a winless ILH season two years ago, coach Ryan Hirata’s first as head coach after a long stint at Mid-Pacific. Now, the team is capable of something that was almost unfathomable back then.

“I push them every day,” Hirata said. “I give them such a hard time, but I think tonight I think they made ‘Iolani and the community very proud of the way they represented Hawaii.”

For the Raiders, it was a series of jolts that electrified a half-filled, but fully enthralled crowd. It was a resounding slam dunk by Jack Jones at the front of a fastbreak that tied the game at 19 — after the Raiders trailed 9-0 at the start.

‘Iolani freshman JJ Mandaquit, who scored 18 points, and Aaron Claytor (six points, four assists) took a loss to No. 1 Sierra Canyon in stride. Paul Honda/

JJ Mandaquit, the wunderkind freshman, was at his best under pressure. The 6-foot guard scored nine points in the first quarter, and with ‘Iolani down 27-21, he splashed a wing 3 and scored on a steal to cut the lead to one point.

Moments later, Makani Tanaka stroked a corner 3, and after Akila Indalecio swished a wing jumper before the half, the Raiders led 31-29.

It was probably not just one, but two shocked teams that headed to the locker room at intermission.

“We wanted to keep the same tempo going into the second half, keep the same intensity,” Mandaquit said. “We were very excited. We knew we had to keep our poise. We knew they would come out and do what they do. We just couldn’t let up on the gas pedal.”

Mandaquit finished with 18 points, his body banged up and bruised after absorbing all the bigger, stronger Trailblazers had.

All the grit and physicality the Raiders put into protecting the paint to that point did not last. Kijani Wright dominated after the break, scoring nine points during the Trailblazers’ second half run. He finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds.

The ball movement that Chevalier wasn’t overly impressed with on Saturday was there on Monday. Whether it was Dylan Metoyer or Tim Rudovskiy or Jojo Phillips or Lloyd, the Trailblazers kept the ball moving against a sticky 2-3 zone.

“We try to teach patience and look for opportunities, and they did that very well today,” Chevalier said. “Kijani started making layups in the second half so that was good for us, but we definitely have to get better as we prepare for semis tomorrow.”

‘Iolani sophomore Aaron Claytor had six points and four assists. Against a softer defense, the sharpshooting guard could have found a hot streak, but that’s Sierra Canyon, a team that never, ever gives an opponent much space.

There were times when Claytor, at 6-1, matched up with Wright on the block. It took a toll.

“It was the physicality,” Mandaquit said.

“And we started to get foul trouble,” Claytor added.

James finished with four points. The good news for SC is that he’ll be quite fresh for the semifinal game with Pembroke Pines (Fla.) on Tuesday.

“We didn’t really mention about Bronny. He’s just number zero,” Mandaquit said. “He’s just another player on their team and they have many great players. We just treated him as another player and just went after him.”

Game over, the Raiders could feel optimistic after a hellacious effort against America’s most famous high school team. Or at least the most popular high school team on Netflix.

“I feel good. We had the No. 1 team in the nation on their heels tonight,” Claytor said.

Mandaquit thrived with the constant electricity in the gym.

“It’s just very exciting. We fed off the energy, I wish we could’ve had our students there, but I’m just super happy with our crowd,” he said.

Bonus shots: After what felt like a million on-the-fly changes on Monday, there is one more change. The scheduled exhibition game between Baldwin and ‘Iolani on Tuesday has been wiped from the ledger. … Sierra Canyon enjoyed a day off on Sunday. “We went to Turtle Island,” Chevalier said. … Baldwin and the other local teams are affected by today’s positive tests whether on their teams or not, but the Bears got some good news. They will play two games at the James Alegre Invitational, which begins on Tuesday at Radford. They are, indirectly, a fill-in for Leilehua. Then they’ll fly back home to Maui, as scheduled, on Thursday morning.

Monday’s games
Kalaheo vs. Maryknoll, cancelled
Kailua vs. Damien, cancelled
Punahou 73, Waialua 32
Leilehua vs. St. Paul VI (Va.), cancelled
Pembroke Pines (Fla.) 75, Central Catholic (Ore.) 50
Sierra Canyon (Calif.) 66, ‘Iolani 49
West Linn (Ore.) 100, Baldwin 39

Tuesday’s games
1 p.m. ‘Iolani vs. Central Catholic (Ore.)
3 p.m. Pembroke Pines (Fla.) vs. Sierra Canyon (Calif.), semifinal
4:30 p.m. St. Paul IV vs. West Linn, semifinal
6:30 p.m. ‘Iolani vs. Baldwin, exhibition, cancelled

Wednesday’s games
Noon TBD
2:00 p.m. TBD
4 p.m. Championship game


  1. ??? December 21, 2021 4:43 am

    The only scare @ Iolani is fans showing up to game!
    Sierra was NEVER going to lose that game. Lol Fake news.

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