Dug McDaniel swallowed his pride.
Moments after he missed two contested 3-point tries in the final seconds of a 52-49 loss to national powerhouse Sierra Canyon, the St. Paul VI guard felt the sting. When Sierra Canyon let him know that the win was theirs, waving goodbye, he fired back verbally at mid-court.
As they headed back to their bench, Mike Price, Dylan Metoyer, Justin Pippen and Addison Reid wore their white Sierra Canyon uniforms proudly and continued to wave goodbye as their coaches pushed the entire squad back.
But after the awards ceremony, when McDaniel was named MVP of the ‘Iolani Classic, he was selective with his words. Economical. His coach, Glenn Farello, had already questioned Sierra Canyon’s coach about the unsportsmanlike behavior of his team.
The Panthers, guided by their coaching staff, stayed back at their bench area. Farello is the kind of coach, like his late father Frank Farello, who doesn’t necessarily yell at players. But he was seething during his conversation with Andre Chevalier, who wanted to make up for the transgression. The teams could shake hands. Even Bronny James was first in line near the scorer’s table, ready to make peace.
Farello would have none of it.
“After what you guys did?”
And they parted ways.
McDaniel scored 17 points, including the first 13 points of the game for his team, which led the Trailblazers 13-6 after one quarter.
People seated at floor level said there was plenty of “chirping” during the game, but the post-game antics of Sierra Canyon, ranked No. 1 in preseason by MaxPreps, was “childish,” according to a neutral observer.
“They had an assistant coach dropping f-bombs to the other team during the game,” the observer said.
Even during the interaction between Chevalier and Farello, one of Sierra Canyon’s security staff seemed agitated and argued with Farello. Tournament coordinator and ‘Iolani co-athletic director Eddie Maruyama kept the peace. Maruyama, a former state championship coach has always had good timing. Having four officers from HPD standing by didn’t hurt, either.
“They showed no class,” McDaniel said. “Our guys played hard. But we’ll see them again.”
Quite the post-game for a nationally televised-battle, a truly classic basketball game.
Chevalier is an old-school grinder. His team played consistent, air-tight defense from start to finish at the Classic. Shooting was up and down, but defense was constant from James to Kijani Wright to the Classic’s most outstanding player Ramel Lloyd.
“Our guys support each other at a very high level, so even though we’re missing shots, they know we’re going to get another opportunity and they know on the defensive side, we’ve got to get the ball back,” Chevalier said. “No matter what we’re doing offensively, we hold people to low scores. That’s always going to give us a chance to win, especially when we get our scorers back. It’s going to be fun.”
One thing Chevalier has never done is teach his players to taunt, but after two nights in a row of it, maybe something changes. Or maybe it can’t, not with national attention and a constant blanket of Netflix cameras and overhead mics.
“Sometimes a young team doesn’t know how to win,” Chevalier said. “We don’t celebrate on the floor. We celebrate after we get in the locker room. We’re in the middle of the rectangle, we go to war, but as soon as the clock hits zero, then it’s camaraderie amongst the players, right? They’re compadres. After the war, they shake hands out of respect and keep it moving, and we have to be better at that. It’s a learning process for us.”
Every game for Sierra Canyon had its moments of struggle. Wins over Punahou (63-39) and ‘Iolani (66-49) weren’t so easy, especially with the latter. ‘Iolani led the Trailblazers 33-29 early in the second half. Then came a nail-biter 51-48 win over Pembroke Pines (Fla,), which included a heckling Pembroke Pines fan who got the goodbye-wave treatment from some Sierra Canyon players moments after the game concluded. Another player was seen rubbing both eyes, fake-tears style, to mock the losing team.
Over the years, intense, loud fans have always been part of the ecosystem in the gym at the ‘Iolani Classic. But it seemed just a bit ironic that Central Catholic (Ore.) was announced as the winner of the Ray Wong Sportsmanship Award as the awards ceremony began within a minute after the court was cleared.
St. Paul VI stresses defense, as well. Like the Trailblazers, they have lots of youth, including 6-6 Jaquan Womack and 6-9 Christian Gurdak — both freshmen. DeShawn Harris-Smith was relentless on both ends as a wing, scoring on the block, playing defense at any position. He finished with 12 points, eight rebounds and two steals for the Panthers.
“He can do things at all three levels. Handles the ball as a point guard, sometimes,” Farello said. “He’s the heart and soul of our team, plays both ends of the floor.”
McDaniel, he added, is just starting to break out.
“Dug got it rolling. He played football this year for the first time. We’ve seen the way he can lift up this team. When he’s playing at that level, he carries everyone with him,” Farello said.
Coach Chevalier will have a full roster when the Trailblazers return to the continent. His team has been battle-tested and should emerge stronger and wiser after the Classic.
“(St. Paul IV) is good. They’re in one of the toughest leagues in the country so they’re always going to go to war,” he said. “They’re always going to have great players and their coach (Glenn Farello) is a great coach, as well.”
The post-game flare-up may have overshadowed a pristine performance by the fantasitaclly versatile one, Ramel Lloyd. The 6-5 swingman was all things to his team, depending on what they needed. His 20 points were big, but his ability to cover all five positions, make precise, quick passes, handle the ball against pressure, crash the boards, block shots. He was in peak Lamar Odom form from day one.
With Sierra Canyon clinging to a 49-47 lead, Lloyd splashed a clutch 3 for a five-point lead with 1:10 left. That proved to be enough, just barely, after St. Paul VI missed three 3-point tries down the stretch that could have forced overtime.
The MOP trophy will have a special place.
“It’s going to go in my trophy case in my garage,” said Lloyd, who signed with Nebraska in November.
As his teammates did their taunting, Lloyd was the only Trailblazer who weaved through the crowd and shook hands with the Panthers after the final buzzer. He gave coach Farello a hug, and shook hands with the staff and players.
The Panthers shook his hand, too.