Replacing a 6-foot-3, 300-pound behemoth, now playing football at UNLV, sure isn’t easy.
Instead of running the same blueprint, University did the logical without Leif Fautanu Jr. Coach Ryan Tong had his new-look Jr. ‘Bows spread the floor and mercilessly work defenses into submission. The game plan worked again on Thursday afternoon in a 47-40 win over Hawaii Baptist in the ILH’s second-place final. ULS secured the second and final ILH berth for the state tournament.
Ostin Taylor (12 points), Jake Flores (eight) and Colby Chun (nine) were part of a guard-heavy rotation that played keep-away with HBA. That negated the Eagles’ penchant for run-and-gun tempo. ULS ran four minutes off the clock in the second quarter after opening a 21-14 lead. That mentality is written into stone now.
“They bought in right away, but the execution and the discipline part took some time,” Tong said. “Life after LJ, we don’t have him in the key anymore. The good thing about it, but I’m happy with the guards we have. Their skill set and IQ go a long way.”
Ikaika Machida and Josh Ancheta also played key roles.
“We played in the (McKinley) Black and Gold in preseason against three pretty good OIA teams, and we knew then we couldn’t go up and down with teams,” Tong said. “We would have to play disciplined and execute and be smart and spread the court. We were able to get three wins in the Black and Gold playing that style. We always refer back to that.”
University defeated Kaimuki, Campbell and Kalani in that tournament. Now, the D-II state tourney awaits. Last year, ULS was ILH runner-up and paired off with Hawaii Prep, the No. 3 seed. HPA won 50-42. Damien won last year’s D-II title, but is now in D-I. This year’s field will include HPA and Kohala of the BIIF, and Roosevelt and McKinley of the OIA. Kauai won the KIF. The MIL is still in D-II playoff mode.
“States is going to be tough. All we can do is play our style of basketball. It’s a loaded field as it was last year. We played McKinley earlier in the year and they were tough. We were missing Colby Chun. Hopefully, we can get some shots to fall, get some free throws to fall and get lucky. At states, it’s all about making that run. Luck’s got to be on your side,” Tong said.
With a few days to prepare, the Jr. ‘Bows will be back at practice. They were 11-for-24 at the foul line in the win today.
“We need to work on our free throws. We didn’t shoot so good from the line,” Taylor said. “We have to play with all our heart and leave it all on the floor. I played with guys for a long time. I want to play for them.”
Chun, one of three seniors, accepted the challenge of playing bigger than his size. His ability to attack defenses is crucial.
“The difference is we have a different team,” he said. “Different mind-set, different strategy. We just come in hungry.