They don’t need to be perfect, just persistent.
Punahou’s 55-52 win over No. 1 Saint Louis on Thursday night confirmed what coach Darren Matsuda knew. His young, talented team just need to get healthy — and believe.
“We’re just really trying to focus on the mental part of the game and stay in the moment play by play. When Maryknoll caught us and Kamehameha caught us, we weren’t able to stay the course. We got a little nervous, we got a little bit crazy with the ball, missed some shots. We just got to remember the process, remember the process,” he said.
Punahou, ranked No. 6 in the Star-Advertiser Boys Basketball Top 10, improved to 2-2 in ILH play (6-3 overall). Peyton Macapulay had 16 points and Drake Watanabe 12. Kekai Burnett came off the bench for 10 crucial points, scoring inside against Saint Louis’ 2-1-2 zone.
Aiva Arquette and Hayden Bayudan had 16 points each for Saint Louis, but they rarely got a clean look.
“First of all just our prep for this game, coach Darren always gives us the blueprint for every game. Hat’s off to him for giving us the gameplan,” Macapulay said. “Our first one was trying to keep Aiva below 10, he scored 16, but our guys kept playing tough defense on him.”
Tough ‘D’, yes. Annoying? Definitely. There were a few times when Balen Rigg, Ayndra Uperesa-Thomas and Ian Eveleth leaned on the 6-foot-4 scorer near the paint and clearly irritated him.
“They had the assignment of face-guarding him. He can play inside and out, but I think he wants to shoot outside. They fought hard with him in the paint,” Macapulay said.
The gauntlet of ILH hoops is as merciless as ever. Only Maryknoll remains undefeated in league play, and the Spartans play at Saint Louis on Saturday. Punahou will host Mid-Pacific on Saturday.
I don’t know. I feel I can do a lot better. as a team this is a big step for us. Our close games with Kamehameha and Maryknoll, we lost the fourth quarter. This time, we stayed the course,” Macapulay said. “I did OK. I can do better.”
The gauntlet is largely fueled by the automatic state-tournament berth waiting for the ILH’s regular-season winner.
“Every game kind of counts. We take it game by game. So we have Mid-Pacific coming up and we can’t take them lightly. Any team can beat any team. Our team is young, we don’t really have guys who came back. The other teams have more seniors and maturity. As we go game by game we have to find that maturity. Every game is a good game for them,” Macapulay said.
Part of the offensive success for Punahou was a high-low connection between its bigs. That isn’t common among young teams. Matsuda had expected a different look from Saint Louis coach Dan Hale, who won state championships at Punahou as a player and coach.
“I coached with Dan and Miah (Ostrowski) did, too, so we were expecting a lot of 1-3-1. He did a lot of 2-3 which was kind of unexpected for us. We’re a pretty good zone (offense) team so we’re comfortable playing against zone,” he said. “If you move the ball effectively, you’re probably going to be somewhat successful, That’s what we try to preach, try to get the best shot.”
Five of the top six teams in the Top 10 are ILH D-I programs.
“It’s funny. We didn’t think what the iLH would be like, as crazy as it is every year. This is probably one of the crazier years since 2016. Everybody’s pretty good this year and it’s going to be a battle every game,” Matsuda said. “No rest for the weary.”