The most experienced team in the state tournament met the youngest squad.
The outcome wasn’t entirely surprising. Top-seeded Maryknoll’s 75-40 win over BIIF runner-up Waiakea was speed against speed, except the Spartans have a battalion of athletes with height, length, four ILH championships and two finals appearances.
The Lady Spartans, now 28-2 overall (including nonconference games) also had balance against a tough-nosed Warriors squad.
“We want to play aggressive. We want to play with intensity. We want to use our depth. There’s no reason to be passive. The game got a little rough in the second half, but I told the girls, keep playing basketball. Kill them with kindness and don’t worry about it,” coach Chico Furtado said.
There were so many things to like about the win for Spartan fans. Maryknoll played with verve — often matched by the fearless, if young, Warriors — and conviction. They played like a team motivated to win the state championship, which could happen in less than 24 hours with a win over Konawaena.
The Spartans also feel like a team still fuming about losses to the same Wildcats in the 2016 and ’17 title games. On the surface, everything is business-like. Defense continues to be the root of all success.
>> Waiakea shot 23 percent from the field (10-for-44) against a defense that stayed in tight man coverage for all 32 minutes.
>> Maryknoll outrebounded the much smaller Warriors 48-27. Nineteen of the Spartans’ boards were on the offensive end.
>> Waiakea committed 25 turnovers with just six assists. Conversely, 15 of Maryknoll’s 26 buckets came on dishes.
“When it counted, I think our defensive intensity was really good,” Furtado said.
Only one Spartan took more than nine shots. Kamalu Kamakawiwo‘ole was 8-for-12 from the field and finished with 19 points, seven rebounds, four assists, four steals and three blocks. Isabella Cravens tallied 15 points, 11 boards and four steals, using her 6-foot-1 frame to consistently dominate the paint.
“Eventually, it didn’t happen right away because we hit that first 3 and all of a sudden everybody thought they could shoot 3s, but eventually, we dominated the interior offensively. I think 18 of our 20 second-quarter points came from Kamalu, Bella and Moe,” Furtado said.
Moe Notoa continued her high efficiency in tourney play. She shot 4-for-7 from the field and 4-for-4 at the free-throw line to score 12 points, adding six rebounds. Four of those were on the offensive glass. She also had three assists, one steal and one block.
In all, Maryknoll shot 44 percent from the field (26-for-59), but the breakdown makes it clear that their ability to pass and attack the paint was extremely valuable. They shot just 2-for-17 from the 3-point range, but inside the arc, Maryknoll shot 24-for-42 (57 percent).
All that’s left is their nemesis, Konawaena. The Spartans overpowered the Wildcats 56-37 on Nov. 11 at the McKinley Black and Gold Classic. It was the third game of nonconference play for the Wildcats and the sixth for the Spartans.
“I love Kona. I love watching them play. We’ll see. We had our way with them earlier, but they’re a different team. They’ve got one of their shooters back,” Furtado said, referring to junior guard Tanniya Uchida. “They had multiple people attacking the rim. It wasn’t only the usual suspects. I give great credit to Lahaina. They hit some big 3s, but down the stretch, too many penetration buckets (by Konawaena). That’s what we’re going to have to stop tomorrow. With them, you’re going to have to name your poison. We have to close on shooters, but at the same time, we cannot give them layups.”
Furtado didn’t see the entire Konawaena-Lahainaluna game, of course, because his team was in the lockerroom preparing for Waiakea. But he saw plenty.
“I think at one point the score was 14-8 and all seven buckets were layups. That cannot happen. We’re going to have a challenge to shut down penetration angles and make sure Bella can contest without fouling. And then we’ve got to board. They were beasts on the offensive boards tonight. When we beat them in November we dominated the glass. With our size that’s what we’ve got to do,” Furtado said.