After two nail-biting, down-to-the-final-second thrillers against Maryknoll in the last three days, the ‘Iolani boys basketball team is one win away from a stunning finish to the first round of ILH play.
After losing by two to Punahou on Jan. 21, the defending state champion Raiders dropped a game behind both Maryknoll and the Buffanblu. They have since rattled off four straight wins, including a 43-41 victory over the Spartans on Senior Day on Saturday and a 43-42 victory in the Spartans’ hostile gym on Monday.
In both games, ‘Iolani fell behind early and both times it rallied behind its defense.
Monday, it was center Hugh Hogland‘s two blocks and a steal on the perimeter guarding out at the three-point line that helped get the Raiders going in the second half.
They still trailed by seven at the end of the third quarter and didn’t take the lead until Justin Genovia‘s and-1 layup off a steal on the perimeter with 1:04 remaining in the game. Cole Hogland added an and-1 layup breaking a full-court press to go back up by three, and ‘Iolani held on for the one-point win when Maryknoll took an uncontested layup with five seconds left. The Spartans had no timeouts and couldn’t stop the clock and ‘Iolani let it run out without inbounding the ball.
“We don’t win this game two weeks ago. Our guys over the course of the season have grown up so much and it takes maturity to get through a game like this,” ‘Iolani coach Dean Shimamoto said. “You saw some tough situations come up and we had to stay positive and battle through them and if we didn’t, we probably would have just wilted because (Maryknoll) hit some big shots.”
The Spartans hit six 3-pointers but were held to one field goal over the final 5:08. Genovia stole the ball away from one of Maryknoll’s best ball handlers.
In the three meetings this season, the margin of victory between Maryknoll and ‘Iolani has been five total points. Yes, total. None of the three games have been decided by more than two points.
After exerting so much energy against Maryknoll, the Raiders will play for the fourth time in seven days against a Punahou team that wrapped up its regular season exactly one week ago. The Buffanblu will be well-rested, but the Raiders will be feeling good about themselves heading into Hemmeter Fieldhouse for the 6:30 p.m. tip on Tuesday.
The ILH first-round title and a berth in the state tournament will go to the winner.
“I feel pretty good right now and I’m sure the people on the team feel good right now,” junior Cole Hogland said. “Our bench stepped up in the first half and gave us some rest so I think we have a lot (left).”
Added Shimamoto: “I don’t think they’ll want to let these last two games go to waste so I’m sure they’ll come out hard (against Punahou).”