At this time next year, things might be quite different.
For now, Maryknoll is boss and queen of Interscholastic League of Honolulu girls basketball. The Lady Spartans’ 12-0 run was completed tonight with a thoroughly decisive 51-31 victory over the young ‘Iolani Raiders.
Piece by piece, the roster is exquisitely balanced. Chapter by chapter, over the last four seasons, Maryknoll has gained more strength and understanding of every aspect of defense and offense. When they pummeled defending state champion Konawaena 56-37 at the McKinley Black and Gold Classic, it was no fluke. The senior-heavy Spartans are all business, and winning their fourth ILH crown in a row was reason for a mini-celebration.
They cut the net. They cheered. They unified. But it’s temporary. Point guard Rhianne Omori, one of 11 seniors, cut to the chase.
“Honestly, ever since we lost the state championship when we were sophomores, it feels like we’re missing something,” she said after a near-flawless six-point, five-rebound, six-assist performance. “We win all the battles, but we haven’t won the war yet.”
For now, though, veteran coach Chico Furtado let his hair down a bit and celebrated with his Spartans. At 26-2 overall, the Spartans are having one of the best seasons every by a Hawaii girls team. They are 21-0 against island competition and were 5-2 against mainland teams, beating Miramonte (Calif.), Oregon City (Ore.), Buckeye Union (Ariz.), Marlborough (Calif.) and Campbell County (Wyo.).
Twenty-two of their 28 games have been against teams that have been or currently are in the Star-Advertiser Top 10, or are mainland teams that have equal footing. Maryknoll is 20-2 against Top 10 foes.
Now they get a break of nine days until they suit up in the quarterfinal round of the Snapple/HHSAA Girls Basketball State Championships.
“We’ve never had that much time before. Usually, we finish (ILH) on a Thursday or Friday,” Furtado said.
More time to enjoy the moment, for sure. And more time to tinker. The Lady Spartans put a 2-3 matchup zone on ‘Iolani that they didn’t have a lot of success with. The Spartans use man-to-man concepts at the top of the zone, but basically remain in a matchup zone near the paint. Not every team can pull it off, but Maryknoll is so versatile that Kodee Viena slid with an ‘Iolani ballhandler, Taylor Wu, all the way out from the wing to near halfcourt, creating a five-second violation.
“We put it in late last year, but we didn’t use it,” Omori said. “We brought it back in the middle of this season.”
The result is that Maryknoll’s most important rim protector, Isabella Cravens, doesn’t have to extend her coverage to the 3-point arc. She did it a few times on this night when Maryknoll was in man defense, and even ended up covering ‘Iolani point guard Tori Maeda once. For the most part, though, the hybrid matchup zone is a wonderfully, freaky creation that suits what the Spartans need.
The Raiders were sizzling hot in the second quarter, shooting 5-for-9 from the arc behind 10 points from Lily Lefotu Wahinekapu.
It wasn’t so splashy otherwise.
>> First quarter: 1-for-11 on field-goal attempts (including 0-for-5 from the arc).
>> Third quarter: 1-for-11 (0-for-4).
>> Fourth quarter: 3-for-12 (0-for-5).
Maryknoll limited the speedy Raiders to 29 percent shooting (12-for-45) from the field. ‘Iolani took two free throws in the entire contest.
“It all starts on defense,” Furtado said.
The Raiders are possibly the hottest team in the state, but Maryknoll has been their kryptonite. The Spartans don’t rely on a single scorer. They got 14 points from versatile Viena, 10 from Kamalu Kamakawiwo‘ole and eight points plus 14 rebounds from Cravens.
The 6-foot-1 senior led the charge on the glass. Maryknoll outrebounded ‘Iolani 39-22.
“All gas,” Cravens said. “No brakes.”