As much as any coach, Chico Furtado understands the futility of making too much of a 7-0 start in preseason basketball.
But the longtime coach was thankful on the eve of Thanksgiving. The Maryknoll Spartans ran away from previously unbeaten Kailua 60-35 on Wednesday night before a fairly sizable home crowd at Clarence T.C. Ching Gymnasium. The game was within single digits for the visiting Surfriders before Maryknoll’s suffocating halfcourt man-to-man defense took control.
Lindsey Lee scored on back-to-back steals, and Maegen Martin scored on another pick-pocket to give the Spartans a double-digit lead that grew and grew.
“Lindsey Lee played a very good game. Her basketball IQ is very high. Hit a couple key threes for us,” Furtado said.
The Spartans used halfcourt traps and a quick transition offense — though Furtado wanted more — to stifle a talented Kailua squad.
“I think we’ve got good guards, three point guards. Any one of them can be on the floor at any time, or together at the same time,” Furtado said, noting the strong play of freshman Chayse Milne.
“We’ve got to get our wing guys to get out and run. If we get out and run, we’ll be fine,” Furtado said.
Another freshman, Rhianne Omori, was also quick and steady guiding the attack. The Spartans are playing crisper and cleaner than most teams this early in the season, winning by an average of 39.5 points per game. Still, Furtado sees plenty of room for improvement.
“We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well tonight. We shot good shots. The first half, we shot 41 times, but it wasn’t really effective. I think as we move forward, we’ll be a better shooting team,” he said. “I still want to get out and run.”
Furtado wasn’t happy with an excess of fouls by his team.
“I think we have to get better at (too much) fouling,” Martin said.
“I guess we’re so used to being aggressive in fullcourt (pressure),” guard Kaile Cambra said. “But with the rules on handchecking, it’s kind of hard for us to adjust right now.”
The increase in fouls comes with the territory — more possessions. But the co-captains, Cambra and Martin, still expect lockdown defense.
“We can do it. We just have to gel as a team,” said Martin, a post player who runs the floor like a guard.
More pace. More possessions. More running. A deep bench gives Maryknoll an extra boost from start to finish with fastbreaks and pressing. So far, Maryknoll has outrun McKinley (69-20), Kaimuki (61-22) and Kalani (65-20). (Scores from their three wins at Farrington’s tourney are not available.) Last year’s team didn’t hit the 60-point mark until Dec. 28 in an ILH matchup with Sacred Hearts.
The Spartans didn’t seem fazed at all playing a Surfriders team featuring center Patria Vaimaona and high-scoring swingman Tau Williams. Maryknoll played Kailua in the opening round of last season’s state tourney, winning 47-33.
“I don’t think our team knew who they are,” Furtado said, referring to five freshmen on the Spartans roster. “I tried to tell them we played them in the state last year, they’ve got three returnees. We’ll make mistakes because of our youth. We’ll need our seniors and our captains to keep our team together.”
Kailua took its first loss after winning three games at the Moanalua Peek Tourney last week.
“There’s a lot to work on. When I set up preseason, I wanted us to go up against the best. We probably have the toughest preseason we’ve had in a long time,” Kailua coach Mandy Llamedo said. “I don’t like to call it ILH or OIA. Maryknoll’s a well-established program, so that’s how I see it. The good news is we didn’t played our best. If we’d played our best and lost like that, then I’d be worried. I think we’ll be OK.”
The Surfriders were aggressive offensively last year with a solid backcourt and the mix of wing and low-post play from Williams and Vaiaoana. On Wednesday, they struggled to get the ball into their offensive sets.
“We need to make better decisions with the ball. That’s where a lot of our struggles were,” Llamedo said.
Kailua’s next challenge is on Saturday with a 4:30 p.m. battle at ‘Iolani.