HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL
Saint Louis marches into states
They came, they saw and they conquered.
Saint Louis' postseason crusade reached the Big Island yesterday, leaving another victim in its wake. With the 63-42 triumph over Konawaena, the Crusaders are now in the state tournament.
State Basketball Championships
3. St. Louis
MIL (champ TBD)
2. St. Joseph
2. Hawaii Baptist Academy
3. Academy of the Pacific
Scott Smith tallied 11 points and eight rebounds in limited playing time to lead the Crusaders in the play-in game between the third-place teams from the Big Island Interscholastic Federation and Interscholastic League of Honolulu.
"I thought we had control at all times. Their crowd was screaming like crazy," said Smith, a 6-foot-7 senior, in a phone interview. "They got a couple of open shots when we doubled on 'em, but once we went to (straight) man (defense), that was it."
Unranked and undersized Konawaena, which lost in the BIIF final to Kamehameha-Hawaii by just four points last weekend, finished the season 23-7.
Though the Wildcats were the designated home team, they were not in their home gym. Because the BIIF wrestling championships were held at Konawaena, the Wildcats played 15 miles away at neighboring Kealakehe High School.
It was Saint Louis, which boarded a plane at noon in Honolulu and arrived on the Big Island not long before tip-off time, that looked like a team on a mission.
Saint Louis (21-5) turned a 12-11 lead after one quarter into a runaway in the second. The Crusaders opened a 33-18 lead in the second quarter, and midway through the third, the lead was up to 40-20 en route to a surprisingly easy victory.
"We got to rest. Once we got the lead, Coach (Delbert Tengan) wanted us to avoid getting injuries," Crusaders senior forward Solomona Aigamaua said. "We've accomplished one goal, now we have to accomplish one more."
The Crusaders, ranked No. 4 in the Star-Bulletin Top 10, will begin play in the opening round of the Hawaiian Airlines/HHSAA State Championships on Tuesday.
Seedings and pairings for the state tourney will be released by the HHSAA today.
"I feel good. I can't wait. I think we'll be dangerous. We have a great team. We can beat Punahou and Iolani, I know we can. We've already beaten Iolani," said Smith, referring to a regular-season win over the Raiders.
For Konawaena, playing away from its gym seemed to eliminate some of the advantage of being the "home" team. The Wildcats outrebounded Saint Louis 50-41, but shot just 12-for-29 from the free-throw line.
The ILH's top teams, Punahou and Iolani, rested during the week while Saint Louis was busy with three games in a four-day span. The Crusaders defeated Maryknoll on Wednesday, then Kamehameha on Thursday to claim third place.
Saint Louis coach Delbert Tengan used the early lead on Konawaena to rest his starting unit. Smith played the opening quarter, but was used sparingly after that.
"We should've blew 'em out by a lot more. No knock on them, but it should have been a massacre," he said.
The trip was strictly business for Saint Louis, which did not partake in any recreational activities on the bucolic Big Island.
The Crusaders went straight from Kona International Airport to Kealakehe's gym, which is roughly 2 miles down the highway from the airport, and another mile up the hill. After the game, they went straight back to the airport and headed home.
Their sightseeing was relegated to long stretches of lava fields.
"We're in and out," Smith said.