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Saint Louis denies Nanakuli, 60-29, advances to state semis

By Wes Nakama

After a 47-year wait, Nanakuli returned to the Heide & Cooke/HHSAA Boys Basketball state quartefinals on Thursday, only to end up with the same result — a loss to Saint Louis.

An estimated crowd of about 800 at Punahou’s Hemmeter Fieldhouse watched Pupu Sepulona score a game-high 14 points with five rebounds and Shancin Revuelto add 13 points with three boards, three assists and three steals as the two-time defending champion Crusaders won, 61-29, to improve to 25-5 and advance to Friday’s 5 p.m. semifinal against Kalaheo (21-13) at Punahou. Nanakuli, which is competing in its first Division I state tournament since 1977, fell to 18-10 and into Friday’s 6:30 p.m. fifth-place bracket game versus Baldwin (14-7).

Forty-seven years ago, Saint Louis used a 22-2 run to overtake the Golden Hawks and win, 58-52. On Thursday, the Crusaders built leads of 13-7 after one period, 24-13 at halftime and 35-19 entering the fourth quarter, when they used a 20-3 run to go ahead, 55-22, with three minutes remaining.

“Saint Louis is just a good team, they played better than us, they executed better than us,” Nanakuli coach Nathaniel Donnell said. “I just don’t think we executed — we didn’t score enough points to get back and set up our defense. When you’re playing a good team, and you’re turning it over, they’re probably running down (court).”

The Golden Hawks had closed it to 8-7 after Ezekiel Donnell’s 3-pointer with 3:07 left in the first period, but Revuelto answered with a triple from the left wing to ignite a 9-1 run capped by Keanu Meacham’s short banker to push the Crusaders ahead, 22-8, three minutes into the second quarter. Saint Louis then opened the second half with a 10-2 surge to extend the lead to 34-15, and then scored 14 straight points to open the fourth period and push it to 49-19 after Corey Bailey’s free throw with 4:29 remaining.

Crusaders coach Dan Hale said limiting Nanakuli to under 20 points for 28-plus minutes was a testament to his team’s defense.

“That’s what we pride ourselves on,” Hale said. “Not that we don’t have offensive guys, but it’s the defense … you should see our practices, guys are going after each other like nobody’s business and making each other tough.”

Another key was defensive rebounding, which limited the Golden Hawks’ second-chance opportunities and allowed for quick outlets that led to transition baskets.

“That was one of our keys to the game,” Hale said. “We needed to control the boards … for the most part, we did a good job limiting them to that one shot, and then getting out and pushing.”

Donnell said despite the loss, Nanakuli’s historic season deserves appreciation. 

“I’m happy for our team, I’m happy we got to be here and taste it,” Donnell said. “Hopefully it makes our guys more hungry to try to come back.” 

Meanwhile Hale said Kalaheo presents an even tougher challenge. The Mustangs turned on the jets in the second half Thursday and pulled away from Baldwin for a 76-55 victory.

“Now they’re jelling,” Hale said. “That was always the talk, was if they get it together … it’s gonna be a tough game for us. We just gotta come out with the same attitude we had (Thursday), and we’ll see.”

Photos: Lori McKeown

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