It was a matter of will for No. 2 Maryknoll.
Facing an unbeaten Saint Louis squad — one with two wins over St. Francis — the Spartans looked out of sorts early on. The first quarter looked like a mismatch.
> Maryknoll shot 2-for-11 from the field.
> The Spartans, who had spent hours on free-throw shooting in recent weeks, were 1-for-5 at the foul line.
> Saint Louis outrebounded the visitors and had an 11-8 edge on the boards.
> Maryknoll also had five turnovers, on pace to finish with 20 giveaways.
None of this was a good recipe for success, but the Spartans turned it around in paint, getting solid defense from husky 6-2 junior center Liko Soares. Senior Marcus Tobin, a 6-7 rim protector, also locked down, and Saint Louis’ shooting went cold. The home team shot 2-for-11 in the second quarter, 1-for-5 at the line — those numbers duplicated what Maryknoll did in the opening period — and the Crusaders also committed seven turnovers.
Saint Louis never quite recovered as Maryknoll pulled away for a 60-49 victory on Tuesday night at McCabe Gym. Maryknoll coach Kelly Grant had his team mix zone and pack-line man defenses that often took away the driving lanes, and Saint Louis didn’t make the Spartans pay. The home team shot 4-for-19 from 3-point range and 11-for-20 at the foul line For the game, the Crusaders shot 35 percent from the field (17-for-49).
On the other end of the floor, Maryknoll kept attacking Saint Louis’ 3-2 zone and man defenses. With 3:07 left in the third quarter, the Spartans were already in the bonus. The visitors shot 12-for-14 at the foul line in the third quarter and 9-for-12 there in the final stanza.
All the work the Spartans put into free-throw shooting — a half-hour each day during the past few weeks — is paying off. In their previous game, Maryknoll shot 31-for-34 at the charity stripe against ‘Iolani. Both wins were on the road.
It began with the Spartans willingness to match Saint Louis’ strength and physicality in the paint. All those hours of workouts are showing in games like this for all the Spartans.
“They’re super physical. I made it a priority to hit the weight room and get bigger,” said Tobin, a 6-foot-7 senior. “That was fun. I love these kinds of games. It’s all part of the game.”
Saint Louis scouted and examined plenty of Maryknoll footage.
“We wanted to take away their inside game and make them shoot outside,” Crusaders coach Sol Batoon said. “We matched up really good, but sometimes we lose our psyche and get too emotional.”
Indeed, Maryknoll shot just 20 percent from the arc (2-for-10), but kept attacking the rim.
> Makoto Kamata: 18 points, including 9-for-12 at the line, plus four steals
> Tobin: 11 points, 3-3 FT, nine rebounds, two blocks
> Payton Grant: 11 points, 4-6 FT
> Kalai Akaka: 10 points, 8-9 FT
After the first quarter, Maryknoll shot 76 percent from the foul line.
It was a textbook comeback for the Spartans, who trailed 15-4 late in the first quarter. It might be a valuable lesson for Saint Louis, even though Batoon finds no consolation in defeat.
Trey Taba led Saint Louis with 11 points. Isaac Silva added nine.
“Taba is an excellent player. And (Lachlan) Hanneman. Liloa (Kapiko) has great skills,” Grant said.
Punahou and Maryknoll are the only two undefeated teams left in the ILH and will play Saturday.
At McCabe Gym
Maryknoll (17-1, 3-0) 6 15 16 23 — 60
Saint Louis (8-1, 1-1) 15 5 13 16 — 49
Maryknoll: Kalai Akaka 10, Payton Grant 11, Reggie Eiland 0, Noah Furtado 1, Makoto Kamata 18, Marcus Tobin 11, Sage Tolentino 0, Niko Robben 9, Liko Soares 0.
Saint Louis: Lachlan Hanneman 0, Nick Herbig 4, Trey Taba 11, Isaac Silva 9, Liloa Kapiko 2, Junior Wily 5, Jayden de Laura 9, Shoncin Reveulto 0, Alexander Blanco 7, Nalu Liftee 2.
3-point goals: Maryknoll 2 (Kamata, Grant), Saint Louis 4 (Taba, Silva, Wily, de Laura).