What a difference one game makes.
Three nights ago, defending Interscholastic League of Honolulu champion Maryknoll was ice-cold from long distance. A 1-for-14 ice-cold, and 15-for-30 from the free-throw line in a hard-earned 60-52 win over speedy ‘Iolani in the regular-season opener.
This time, with arch rival Punahou trodding through the rain, hoofing it down campus and across Wilder Ave to meet their neighbors — assistant coach Shawna-Lei Kuehu took off the slippers and put heels back on once they entered Clarence T.C. Ching Gymnasium — the Spartans weren’t sure what to expect from their visitors. Or themselves.
Maryknoll established its status as the team to beat in ILH girls basketball with a resounding 57-39 win over Punahou. The numbers are cold, for Buffanblu fans, but Maryknoll defied expectations from the 3-point stripe: 10-for-20, along with a 29-23 edge on the boards. Punahou also committed 23 turnovers and Maryknoll had only 12 despite committing six giveaways in the opening quarter.
Maryknoll, which was 9-0 coming into the regular season, is now 2-0 in league play.
“Credit to them. They were hitting,” Buffanblu second-year coach Liz Kam, a Maryknoll graduate, said. “
The Buffanblu, using man defense, and later, a 2-3 matchup zone, went by the book. There was ample low-post help against Maryknoll center Isabella Cravens, who finished with a modest four points, seven rebounds and two dimes. Cravens, a spry 6-foot-1 junior, had been a monster in the paint against ‘Iolani with 17 rebounds and five blocks.
This game was won on the outskirts. Kamalu Kamakawiwo‘ole (19 points, five rebounds) started hot from deep with two first-quarter treys and her friends kept the fire going. Point guard Rhianne Omori (eight points, five assists) sank a trey, and in the second quarter, Chayse Milne hit two trifectas of her own. Kodee Viena came off the bench and drilled a 3, and by halftime, Punahou’s helping man defense was proven wrong. Maryknoll shot 6-for-9 from the arc in the first half and owned a 30-12 lead.
“Kamalu was on fire. She’s a real crafty player,” Kam said of the 5-foot-9 sophomore.
“I feel good,” said Kamakawiwo‘ole, who can be a matchup problem with her length and range. “I was looking to mostly drive. I thought they were going to guard the 3-point line.”
Punahou did defend there to an extent, just not tight enough to stop Maryknoll’s shooters.
The strange thing is, particularly in the first 5-6 minutes, Spartans coach Chico Furtado was relentless. He saw some sloppy play (six first-quarter turnovers) and was far from satisfied. But the threes kept arching in thanks to quick ball movement, some drive-and-dish execution, and the Buffanblu weren’t quite sure what hit them.
This was the Maryknoll team that was 1-for-14 on Saturday? The Spartans still haven’t become a dominant post-scoring team in terms of how many (or few) touches Cravens gets down low. But they attack the rim, whether it’s the starting five, or talented reserves like Viena.
The Maryknoll bench was superb for a second game in a row. Kehau Gilliland and Ysablle Halemano operate within the system and thrive in their roles. Neither scored a point on Tuesday, but they combined for three rebounds (two offensive), two assists, three steals (by Gilliland) and one block with just two turnovers. Those two, along with Viena, give Maryknoll arguably the best bench in the state. They may not turn a 10-point lead into a 20-point cushion every time, but they will not allow any slippage.
In other words, they are a huge reason Furtado and his staff can be confident during a game, and smiling afterward.
Punahou, like ‘Iolani, is practically wed to its base defense — man to man — but a striking change happened. On Saturday, it was Furtado who was concerned about ‘Iolani’s prowess from downtown. He had to instruct his defenders to stay on the 3-point arc rather than dive in to help on drives. That helped significantly; the Raiders finished 5-for-13 from the arc, including 2-for-8 in the first three quarters.
This time, it was Punahou diving into the lane to help on Maryknoll penetration, and the Spartans’ passing off the dribble was stellar most of the night. Well, at least until the third quarter, when Kam ditched the man defense in favor of zone.
It worked splendidly for a stretch. Maryknoll, seeing zone for the first time in 1.5 games, shot just 5-for-15 from the field in the third quarter, including 1-for-5 from 3-point range. Still, the Buffanblu trailed 41-24 entering the fourth quarter after Milne (14 points, five assists) splashed a 3 on a feed from Cravens, who had hustled for an offensive board — while Punahou’s bench howled at what may have been an over-the-back no-call.
Kandiah, with 11 points through three quarters on 3-for-10 shooting, turned into an alpha dog in the final 8 minutes. She drained three treys, including one off the dribble on the break, and finished with 24 points. Yes, that’s 13 fourth-quarter points on 5-for-6 shooting.
Kandiah couldn’t save the day. Her back-to-back treys cut the lead to 38-29 early in the fourth quarter, but the home team answered with a 16-2 run to put the game away. Kamakawiwo‘ole sank another 3, and moments later drove for a layup. After Milne connected on her fourth triple of the night, Maryknoll led 54-31 and Furtado emptied his bench for the final few minutes.
It was, according to the scouting report, not supposed to be like this. Then again, for all their achievements — the Spartans reached the state championship game last season — they are still primarily a team of gifted juniors who have blended over the past two-plus years. Their ability to run, never questioned. Play great defense? Their true cornerstone. But to create open looks and HIT the 3-ball whether in transition or set offense, well, this is something the Spartans are on the verge of mastering.
For Punahou, which won in convincing fashion at home against Kamehameha on Saturday, this is a work in progress. They look and feel different after years of twin towers Tyra Moe and Vae Malufau patrolling the paint. Maryknoll may be relatively young, but their game experience level is deep. The Spartans didn’t allow Punahou’s long-range gunners to get many open looks; aside from Kandiah, her teammates were a combined 1-for-4 from deep. With a lack of a consistent low-post offense and nary a deep threat, the Buffanblu were kept under control for the most part by a well-prepared Maryknoll defense.
“You’re always happy when we play well for most of the game,” Furtado said. “Kamaile’s a good player. She’s not going to roll over. For them, they kind of have one player that they depend on, and we have multiple players. It was crowded inside and we needed to loosen them up with the 3-point shot.”
Unlike ILH game 1, when Furtado drew a technical foul, the Spartans were nearly flawless for a stretch.
“We played well. The second quarter was as complete a quarter as we’ve played this year,” Furtado added.
For Punahou, the pendulum is on its side. After all, Maryknoll could do almost no wrong. There isn’t much to tweak. The Buffanblu have some important aspects to work on.
“We can control effort and communication,” Kam said, referring to her team’s defense. “Offensively, we need patience, to maintain possession for a good shot. We came out a little too hungry.”
Still, the Buffanblu are 1-1, not a bad place to be at this point, just a few weeks into the season. The Buffanblu have had 14 practice days and, truth be told, looked a bit winded on the hardwood. The ILH has never started the regular season for girls basketball this early. Saturday was the season opening date — Nov. 26 — which used to be the middle of preseason tournament time.
“We don’t have any league games for two weeks. We need practice,” Kam added.
Kandiah, who played nearly every minute, is now a senior leader. She is, naturally, heavily invested for the long term. The mantra is patience. The tone, at least for Kandiah and her head coach, is calm. Focused with an alert calmness.
“We didn’t bring it on defense. We weren’t communicating and (Maryknoll) was hitting,” she said. “We’ve got to keep going, get better and stay positive.”
Punahou and Maryknoll will play in the Ted Fukushima Invitational at Kaiser, which begins on Thursday.
“We’re 2-0 right now after playing two good, talented teams,” said Omori, now a junior. “We’re working good as a team. We came out too excited (on Saturday).”
Punahou (1-1) 7 5 12 15 — 39
Maryknoll (2-0) 17 13 11 16 — 57
Punahou: Kamaile Kandiah 24, Tanisha Elbourne 1, Lexie Taylor 4, Abigail Aplaca 4, Kristen Tamagawa 0, Jenna Reformina 0, Ellle Uyeda 2, Gabriella Pua‘a 4.
Maryknoll: Kamalu Kamakawiwo‘ole 19, Rhyenne Filisi 0, Rhianne Omori 8, Georjette Stietzel 0, Kodee Viena 5, Isabella Cravens 4, Chayse Milne 14, Kenna Tanouye 0, Moe Notoa 4, Taryn Holeso-Aki 0, Kehau Gilliland 0, Ysabelle Halemano 0, Sierra Murobayashi 3, Sisilia Kaufusi 0.
3-point goals—Punahou 5 (Kandiah 5), Maryknoll 10 (Milne 4, Kamakawiwo‘ole 3, Omori, Viena, Murobayashi).