The Maryknoll Spartans were within five points of the nation’s No. 9 team, Clovis West (Fresno, Calif.), on Thursday night.
By halftime, down 32-27, they were hanging on despite an ankle injury to starting forward Kamalu Kamakawiwo‘ole. Their underclassman-heavy roster eventually fell behind by 21 before closing the gap in the final few minutes and losing 67-58.
Maryknoll, ranked No. 2 in the Star-Advertiser Girls Basketball Top 10, sustained its first loss after 13 wins. Coupled with No. 1 Konawaena’s 79-39 loss to the nation’s No. 2 program, Archbishop Mitty (Calif.), there’s a case to be made — and I heard at least one after the first night of the ‘Iolani Prep Classic — that the Lady Spartans deserve the top spot now.
Most voters on the panel don’t reconcile their ballots until the end of the weekend, when the votes are due. Maryknoll at No. 1?
>> Konawaena (7-1) cruised past Lahainaluna last week, taking a 10-0 lead. Maryknoll edged the Lady Lunas 38-33 four weeks ago, and the Lunas came to Oahu with just five active players.
>> There is no other common opponent, though Maryknoll’s foe today, Leilehua, lost to Konawaena 50-23 three weeks ago.
>> Maryknoll had three losses last season. Two were to Punahou. The last was to Konawaena in the state final, 44-34. Alexis Delovio and Lindsey Lee graduated, but the remaining roster all returned this season. Konawaena lost two All-State performers, player of the year Chanelle Molina (Washington State) and Ihi Victor (St. Martin’s).
Coach Craig Campbell is now a veteran of basketball trips to the islands. The Golden Eagles came to the Classic in 2009, finishing fifth. This team is deeper and stronger, balanced and unselfish. They play in the same system from fourth grade on up. The jump-stop mechanism at the elbow and paint area is the trigger point for handoffs and laterals that lead to passes for layups and open threes.
Clovis West made 17 from long range in the semifinals of their Nike Central Valley Showdown last week, and 18 in the final to capture the title. Campbell brought the team to Oahu on Monday, giving his squad plenty of time to get situated. By game time, the Golden Eagles brought a lot of defensive pressure, but Maryknoll’s man defense hustled to limit the visitors to “only” eight treys in 18 attempts.
“We were a little tight, passing up open shots,” Campbell said of his team’s first half.
Playing with a 30-second shot clock is the norm in the CIF, one of few state associations that have adopted the clock.
“Back home, we have no 10-second rule (to bring the ball over the midcourt line) and there’s no 5-second rule (for defensive position on the ball handler),” he said.
Senior swingman Megan Anderson led the Golden Eagles with 14 points, hitting open threes, feeding cutters for layups, taking a lot of physical contact at the rim and finishing.
“We’ve been in the hotel so we want our legs back tomorrow,” she said.
Like the other local teams in the tourney, Maryknoll saw a lot of fullcourt and halfcourt pressure. When point guard Rhianne Omori was on the floor, she sliced through most of the time, but Clovis West, using an 11-player rotation, kept bringing pressure.
“Rhianne and Bella (Cravens) played a lot of minutes,” Maryknoll coach Chico Furtado said. “We broke their fullcourt press a few times for layups and they went to their halfcourt press. They have length and they’re aggressive.”
Chayse Milne was another key part of Maryknoll’s solid first half, handling the ball and making timely passes in transition. With the 6-foot Kamakawiwo‘ole out at about the 5-minute mark of the second quarter, they lost a key defender, rebounder, passer and scoring threat. Furtado played most of the bench the rest of the way to fill the void, and Clovis West didn’t pull away until midway through the third quarter.
“I like the way we finished despite the adversity,” he said. “Especially our second unit. It was important for everybody to get experience against a team like this.”
So who should be the No. 1 team in Hawaii? It could be settled, at least for the coming week, if Maryknoll and Konawaena meet in the fifth-place game on Saturday. Maryknoll would need to beat Leilehua and Konawaena would have to beat Salesian Prep College (Calif.) in today’s consolation matchups.
Unless she has a speedy recovery, Kamakawiwo‘ole is likely to sit the rest of the tournament.
“We have league games next week,” Furtado noted.