To the unsuspecting spectator entering Clarence T.C. Ching Gymnasium at Maryknoll School on Thursday evening, a showdown of immense magnitude was in the making.
In reality, not really. Fourth-ranked ‘Iolani had nothing to gain or lose in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu girls basketball standings. Top-ranked Maryknoll had plenty of incentive: win and clinch at least a tie for the regular-season title — which brings an automatic state-tourney berth. The end result: Maryknoll turned a two-point game in the third quarter into a 47-34 victory.
It was a rough night for the visitors. The Raiders had this: they were in the middle of hell week, a.k.a. Finals Week. Other schools, like Punahou, have new and/or different academic calendar systems. Punahou had finals
‘Iolani kid: “QUIET!!! I’m trying to study!”
Punahou kid: (blasting music on the bathroom radio) “Did you say something?”
‘Iolani kid: “Why does everyone hate me?”
Raiders girls basketball coach Dean Young knows the scenario extremely well.
“Our team is mentally exhausted,” he said a few hours after the team had its first finals (Thursday), and just 12 hours before they prepared for two more finals (Friday).
So the Raiders coach channeled his inner Pop, as in San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. No, Young didn’t bench his starters. He didn’t sit anyone. But he had his team hold the ball for almost painfully long stretches, turning what normally is an up-and-down game between two fast teams into a crawl. The Raiders, who thrived in the shot-clock format of their ‘Iolani Classic — against some tough competition — seemed more than ready to adopt a snail’s pace game. They were off on ordinary passes, off on their shots, and simply off their game.
Seventeen turnovers, only 29 shot attempts — the Raiders normally get to that number by halftime — and a bone-dry nine rebounds for the entire game were just further proof that verified what Young had forecasted.
It was a game that was both terribly challenging, and a physical barrier in terms of sleep deprivation. But for fans who had entered the Lady Spartans’ house, it was an absurd thing to see. They got to see a Maryknoll team playing some of its best basketball — 51 percent from the field (19-for-37) — as ‘Iolani simply worked pass after pass without much motion, without much aggression — the Raiders had difficulty driving from the high post against Maryknoll center Isabella Cravens in a 60-52 Spartans win a month ago — and using a good 60-90 seconds at times between shots.
The stats were, to no surprise, quite odd.
>> ‘Iolani had no rebounds in the second quarter, yet stayed in the game with a late surge and trailed 23-18 entering intermission.
>> The Raiders took four shots from the field in the third quarter (2-for-4), which seriously has to be a single-quarter low not just this year, but probably for the past 10 or so seasons.
>> The third stanza was so slow, Maryknoll’s edge in rebounding was 2-1.
>> The Raiders were so tired, their fans went from early-game glee — they led 9-5 at one point — to politely heckling the referees to simply emitting barely audible sighs with each giveaway. The Raiders had 11 turnovers in the second half against a Maryknoll defense that didn’t press, didn’t trap, didn’t do anything but play 2-3 matchup zone with consistent shadowing.
“We were just tired,” Young said. “Maryknoll is a little more refined defensively at what they do.”
True enough. The length and agility of tall wings like Kamalu Kamakawiwo‘ole and Chayse Milne were overwhelming in the second half. Just about everyone on the floor for Maryknoll seemed to be getting deflections and tips. The Raiders didn’t exactly post up with authority against the taller Spartans, though it might have been interesting to see how Kawai Kahalehoe might have done off the pivot now and then.
And yet, and yet, and yet… Spartans coach Chico Furtado did his thing. He worked his players. He worked the refs. He coached, he cajoled, he had minor fits when his team made unforced turnovers.
He was, incredibly, “happy.”
Hearing a perfectionist admit happiness, well, that’s a moment worth storing in the time capsule. A Kodak moment. (My young friends, that’s a thing where actual cameras that weren’t part of phones would click photos, preserve them on film, and it would take around a week for the store to develop each roll of 12 or 24 photos.)
It’s been decades since Furtado finishing his playing days at Chaminade (large ‘fro), started coach with guru Pete Smith (the late, great Pete Smith), and he has never, once, taken the easier path. Not when it comes to coaching his players, conversing with referees, expecting more.
“I’m happy,” he said.
Then again, there was the late-game, two-handed contact — pushing? — by ‘Iolani defenders as Cravens, the 6-foot-2 sophomore, posted up.
“Everyone’s pushing her with two hands in the back. That’s a foul. That’s a point of emphasis,” Furtado said.
The Spartans are 9-0 in the ILH gauntlet, three games ahead of Kamehameha. One win away from clinching the regular-season title outright. If and when that happens, Furtado and his staff and team can finally take a breather and coast.
They won’t. That loss to Konawaena in the state final last season still dredges up bad vibes, the thought of what could have been. The Spartans still feel like they let that game slip away.
Note to self: When Chico says “happy,” that is code for “we’ll enjoy the win tonight and forget about it by morning because nothing short of a state title will truly satisfy.” Or words to that effect.
With Kamehameha continuing to rise, Punahou scaring every foe and not seeming like a typical fourth-place team (of course) and ‘Iolani trying to survive the typical ILH student-athlete grind, the Spartans are more than glad to be this close to an automatic state berth. With only one more berth available to the ILH, the alternative would be worse than a gauntlet. It would be a shark tank. It is a shark tank.