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Maryknoll girls shut down ‘Iolani, 43-23

Sunday, January 8, 2023

By: Wes Nakama

Solid defense and free throw shooting are usually not things that make SportsCenter Top 10 highlights, but they were key for Maryknoll’s girls on Saturday afternoon in the Spartans’ stunning 43-23 road victory at three-time defending state champion ‘Iolani.

A surprised crowd of about 250 watched No. 1-ranked Maryknoll pitch a rare shutout in the third period and allow only six second-half points to improve to 15-1 overall and 6-0 in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu. Spartans wing Ciera Tugade-Agavisa led the way on offense with a game-high 15 points, including 13 of 15 free throws, and Madison Guillerno added 10 points. Mele Sake scored seven points to lead the No. 2 Raiders, who fell to 9-4 and 5-2.

“We really work a lot on defense,” Maryknoll coach Chico Furtado said. “We’re trying to recognize where the strengths of our opponents are — there are some good guards in this league — and we’re trying to take that away, and see if they can function without having that option as readily available. They’re going to get some points, you cannot stop them completely. But since we’ve been doing that, we’ve held all of them under their average.”

Photo: Nick Peterson

‘Iolani started out with a 6-2 lead in the early minutes, only to see the Spartans respond with a 12-2 run sparked by Dylan Neves’ layup and capped by Taimane Faleafine-Auwae’s three-point play to put them ahead, 14-8, just over a minute into the second period. The Raiders closed it to 14-13 with just under five minutes remaining, but that was as close as they would get as Maryknoll answered with a 7-0 run culminating in two free throws by Tugade-Agavisa which pushed the lead to 21-13 with 2:49 left.

The Spartans led 24-17 at the break, then in the third period, ‘Iolani went scoreless as Maryknoll’s tight on-ball defense and some missed layups and free throws led to a commanding 31-17 margin into the fourth.

“They played good on-ball ‘D,’ ” Raiders coach Dean Young said. “But I think we were too stagnant, it’s something we gotta work on. This is only the second game we’ve played with our two bigs (Sake and Calllie Pieper) in the game. So you can see it’s clunky, it’s rusty, doesn’t have reps, it doesn’t flow like we normally flow. It’s just something that we as coaches have to work on and do a better job with.”

In the meantime, Tugade-Agavisa steadily helped to build the lead mostly at the free throw line. She entered the game as a 57 percent free throw shooter (8 of 14) for the season, but swished one clean shot after another from the charity stripe Saturday afternoon.

“I worked on it at practice,” Tugade-Agavisa said. “It’s like mental, when you’re going to the line. It felt good once I got the first couple down.”

The Spartans will have only one day to rest and zero days to practice before facing Punahou (4-2) on the road Monday.

“We’re very fortunate, I think the kids are buying in,” Furtado said. “I want them to understand that ‘Iolani is a good program, but this is our time and you have to go out and take it, nobody’s going to hand things to you. After we won four straight (ILH titles), ‘Iolani came and took it to us, and they’ve been the champs ever since. Now somebody has to go take it from them, they’re not going to just hand it over. They’re a very good team, and they’re going to be back, we gotta play them again. 

“Now we’ve got Punahou on Monday with very little rest, no practice, the schedule is brutal. But we’ll just deal with it.”

Photo: Nick Peterson