Maryknoll reaches back for flexibility

Maryknoll girls basketball coach Chico Furtado has never experienced a season like this in all of his three-plus decades of coaching. Photo by Steven Erler/Special to Star-Advertiser (Dec. 9, 2017)

The blueprint for the team in white, maroon and gold is simple enough.

The generic 2-3 zone is not quite what Maryknoll does, but in the hands of coach Chico Furtado, it is flypaper-sticky. It is Boeheimian. It is what the Lady Spartans used to bring the whirling, beautiful motion offense of Oregon City to a proverbial thud.

The Pioneers, runners-up in Oregon 6A girls basketball last season, shot 2-for-14 (14 percent) in a pivotal third quarter. That set the stage for Maryknoll’s 62-49 win, which wasn’t exactly done by original game plan. Furtado is a man-to-man believer. It is part of his DNA and, thus, the normal game plan for all the teams he has coached from Kalaheo to Maryknoll, not to mention the summer mainland tournaments that his travel teams played in.

But with Oregon City running backdoor cuts, back screens, handoffs and almost everything possible in a matter of minutes, Furtado had seen enough. He had the Spartans go 2-3 zone to start the second quarter and, at first, it didn’t completely slow the Pioneers down. Maryknoll led 19-17 to begin the second period, and Oregon City still worked the ball inside for layups: 1-of-2 free throws by Kylie Guelsdorf; layup by Allie Edwards on a pass from Brooke Bullock; layup by Guelsdorf on a lob from Kaari Guelsdorf (that began with a low-post back screen more often used by men’s teams for alley-oop dunks). This was all in the first 4 minutes of the second quarter, and Oregon City led 24-23.

There was another factor. Maryknoll’s offense, even with the tournament’s 30-second shot clock, began to work its rhythm. Furtado’s ancient spell worked its magic, which is what the flex offense tends to do when defenses opt to follow along rather than trap it. The Spartans went on a 7-3 mini-run, getting a backdoor-cut layup by Kodee Viena (pass by Ysabelle Halemano), free throws by center Isabella Cravens, a floater in the lane by Rhianne Omori, and after Omori sank a foul shot, it was 30-26 and the tone had changed.

Oregon City broke the spell with five points in a row by Kaari Guelsdorf, but Furtado had seen something very much to his liking. The third quarter began and that flex action grinded out what could’ve been a high-tempo, crazy-pace number game. It threw the Pioneers off their game, their run-and-gun, we’re-runners-from-Oregon vibe. They wound up spending more time chasing the Spartans in a methodical, almost paralyzing pattern.

That, more than anything, may have thrown the Pioneers — last season’s Oregon 6A state runner-up — off their normal game. Either the chasing and fatigue, or the boredom of following Maryknoll’s screeners and cutters around. Five players do the screening at different times in the flex, a simplified Rubik’s Cube with no intent to be solved, but to simply be shuttered and shuffled around back to its original state. There’s no solving a puzzle. The job of the flex is to merely expose that one weak defender in a man defense, and that will normally open up a clean layup or an open 3. In Furtado’s version, the layup is much preferable.

For Oregon City, it was like an aerobic workout, only to find out that all that movement was done in one spot. The Pioneers had just one turnover in the third quarter, scoring six whole points. So, as the Pioneers lost their momentum, Maryknoll took full advantage and opened up an incredible… six-point lead. All that work, all that patience, all that monotony for a team of talented shooters and slashers, and it was 42-36 entering the final quarter.

The good news for Spartan fans is, the senior-heavy team understands the effect of the flex. It’s not instant lottery money. It’s a trickle, then a heavy drip, and there’s not much most opponents can do with it or about it. Maryknoll opened the lead to 49-38. There was one more push by the Pioneers, who cut the lead to seven with 5:47 left, but they couldn’t get through that barrier.

It was classic Chico Furtado basketball, which can be traced back to his Windward-side influences like the late, great Pete Smith and Merv Lopes. Cravens owned the glass with 13 rebounds and three blocks to go with her 14 points — a performance equal parts dominance and personal conviction — while Omori picked her spots. She found creases and attacked in the final minutes, scoring six of her 23 points to put the game away.

“She showed what she can do, a 5-3 guard who can attack, slice, score or kick out,” Furtado said.

It wasn’t the perfect game offensively, but with the Spartans all-in with the boa-constrictor suffocation of opponents through the flex, it was almost masterful. Imagine that, a shot-clock format being used to sometimes maximum capacity from one play to the next by a patient high school team — that happens to be ranked No. 1 in Hawaii. It was timely, too, coming a day after a 23-point loss to defending Oregon 6A state champion Southridge.

“This is a nice win for us. We got shown what we need to work on, but I like the fact that they came back today,” Furtado said.

From a key 3 by reserve guard Georjette Stietzel to the court vision of athletic wings like Viena, Kamalu Kamakawiwo‘ole and Chayse Milne, the tough-nosed interior defense of Moe Notoa and Kehau Gilliland — the word for Maryknoll is resilient. That will come in handy as they return to the ILH battlefield to face Kamehameha on Friday.

Furtado likes his man defense, but married to it? Not exactly. The zone, like the flex, is a timely tool, hypnotic device and silent weapon all in one.

“We’ve used it against ‘Iolani. I don’t want Bella chasing a 5-2 guard,” he said.

All the pieces on Maryknoll’s chess board have transformed into a dominant team in the islands. After all these years, their coach is moving forward by reaching into the past.


  1. Chuck Balcher January 15, 2019 4:27 pm

    Great Coach

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