By Paul Honda
Coach Eddie Maruyama put it simply.
The ‘Iolani Raiders played as one team, he said, just as the athletic program’s mantra dictates. But there was more to the Raiders’ stunning 63-58 overtime win over fourth-seeded Farrington last night in the quarterfinal round of the Hawaiian Airlines/HHSAA Girls Basketball State Championships.
It was the kind of effort — all around — that normally would have close observers thinking, “This game should be on TV.”
Well, it was, and the entire state got to see the heart of ‘Iolani basketball. Consider that Lahela Usui, a slashing, tough guard, played on a partially torn MCL. Consider that senior floor leader Lori Yamashita returned after suffering a calf cramp that left her almost unable to move for a few minutes.
Then there’s sophomore guard Kylie Maeda, who tore an ACL on Day 1 of the ‘Iolani Classic back in December. She kept her spirit up, even after two unsuccessful comeback tries. Yet, there she was on the floor at McKinley Student Council Gym, playing in the opening round and again against the mighty Governors of Farrington.
All three were integral to the win. Usui was among the leading scorers, hitting 12 of her 15 foul shots. Yamashita’s ballhandling and poise were unmeasurable — true point-guard value. Maeda “only” swished two key 3-pointers over the Govs, ultimately forcing them to step up to the arc defensively.
That opened the lanes, and Georgette Lopes-Liutolo, who also hit a couple of well-time treys, was effective as a high-post passer. She found Alex Masaquel several times on the low post for buckets and free throws, and Masaquel’s contribution turned the tide against the Govs.
When that clogged up, the Raiders started attacking the lanes against the stronger, bigger Govs. Even Usui, with a brace on her knee, put her head down and hit the accelerator.
“We knew we had to do something of our shots are off, even with our knees,” she said. “This week is all or nothing.”
The variety of offensive tactics from assistant coach Rodney Veary answered the call. Normally, the Raiders are content to rain in 3-pointers. This time, they looked like pioneers of the paint.
“Coach Veary and (Glenn) Young had a nice game plan offensively,” Maruyama said. “We played as one team. Farrington did a great job.”
Yamashita is one of several long-range threats and took her open shots, but smart basketball goes beyond just a few players.
“We worked it ’til we found the open person. It’s good decision-making by my teammates,” she said.
Maeda, meanwhile, didn’t feel any pain in the aftermath of the win.
“My adrenaline’s pumping so much,” she said. “It’s big. Last year, we got killed by Farrington.”
The Govs ousted ‘Iolani in those quarterfinals 68-51. This time, ‘Iolani was silenced the normally hearty Farrington fans much of the night.
More post-game notes:
• Farrington coach Caroline Tatupu, a former ‘Iolani standout center, had concerns all season long about rebounding. However, her team did the job on the glass with a 37-27 advantage.
It was turnovers that did the Govs in. ‘Iolani’s three-quarter press helped cause 28 Farrington turnovers.
• Masaquel added a team-high nine rebounds and five steals to spark the Raiders (15-7 overall), who used a high-pressure, three-quarter press to force the Governors into 28 turnovers. Surprisingly, there was little resistance when the freshman posted low and sealed her defender off. That got her some easy baskets and got her roll going. Freshman or not, she is not afraid to bump and match any defensive intensity.
Frankly, she has the same aggression and skill set as former Konawaena forward Mana Hopkins, who also ran the forward faster than most guards. Hopkins, who was at the game last night, now plays for Hawaii Pacific.
• Usui added 16 points, including 12-for-15 shooting at the foul line.
• Brydgette Tatupu-Leopoldo led Farrington (21-5) with 18 points and added eight caroms with four assists. Liana tallied 15 points, nine boards and three steals.
• The Govs shot 46 percent from the field (20-for-43), but were unusually off from the foul line (15-for-29).
• ‘Iolani shot just 33 percent from the field (16-for-48), but 28-for-34 accuracy from the line (82 percent) made a big difference.
• Farrington, the Oahu Interscholastic Association champion, led early, but ‘Iolani took the lead early in the second quarter and never lost it until the fourth.
• The Govs had a 47-42 lead after Tatupu-Leopoldo scored five points in a row — a trey from the top after a great save on a loose ball by Liana and a lefty layup. With 5 minutes left in regulation, ‘Iolani saw its chances slim when Maeda tweaked her knee on a drive and Yamashita left with a cramp in her calf.
• Reserve guard Shauni Watanabe stepped in and helped the Raiders go on an 8-0 run to take the lead.
• Farrington tied the game at 51-all on a 13-foot jumper by Chasity Sevao-Scanlan with 41 seconds left in regulation. After Masaquel missed a layup, the Govs had a chance to win, but Tatupu-Leopoldo’s 18-foot baseline jumper missed at the buzzer, sending the game into overtime.
• Farrington entered the game ranked No. 4 in the Star-Bulletin Girls Basketball Top 10. ‘Iolani (15-7), runner-up from the Interscholastic League of Honolulu, is ranked sixth.