Yes, this is a delayed reaction, but it is still sinking in.
The St. Francis Saints have closed the book on their only boys basketball season in Division I. News today that the elementary school would also close its doors this spring means there is finality. For the basketball team, 39 games went by like a blur. Injuries. Big wins. Big losses. A steady coaching staff guided the Saints through all of it, and they got better. They evolved.
The 22-17 overall record, the 6-6 regular season record in the toughest league statewide, the 12-17 mark against Top 10 teams. None of it might seem spectacular on the surface. But each game was a new opportunity, and there are very few teams that got better every week like St. Francis did. There were times when they had no choice but to send a 6-foot and under team onto the court in the ILH, where there are forests of giants on most rosters.
The 2017-18 season was a stunner when the then-Division II Saints knocked off the behemoths of the ILH. The element of surprise was completely gone in this campaign. With a leading scorer (Kameron Ng) still not fully healed from an ankle injury, with a backcourt of more injuries (Jett Tanuvasa, Kordel Ng), and an injured center (Makua Marumoto), it was basically a recipe for collapse.
Instead, the Saints stayed close. Their losses in league play were all by single-digit margins except for the Ls against No. 1 Maryknoll. After the second loss to Maryknoll, St. Francis did this:
>> W 84-81 OT @ No. 2 Punahou, Jan. 24
>> L 66-70, No. 3 ‘Iolani, Jan. 26
>> W 58-55 Kamehameha, Jan. 29
>> W 70-41 Mid-Pacific, Feb. 2
>> W 57-44 Mid-Pacific, Feb. 7, ILH playoff
>> L 52-70 @ No. 1 Maryknoll, Feb. 9, ILH playoff
>> 57-46 @ No. 3 ‘Iolani, ILH playoff
St. Francis’ loss to ‘Iolani (52-47) on Wednesday night was a gift. In previous years, there would’ve been no tiebreaker game for third place, not when only two state-tournament berths were available to the ILH. The school with nothing left to lose produced a team that rallied from 14 down, got within 2, and had a chance to take the lead in the final minute.
The legacy of St. Francis boys basketball won’t be forgotten anytime soon. Titus Liu. Nalu Kanalulu. Chase Akana. Coach Ron Durant and assistant Kekoa Ng never got to the D-I state tourney, but the journey was more than a sound byte. It was a novel. An epic novel. Long live the baby-blue team from Manoa Valley.