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Typical Maryknoll day: read, write and rebound

Paul Honda
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PAUL HONDA / PHONDA@STARADVERTISER.COM
The Maryknoll Spartans live by their season motto: Ballers and Scholars. Clockwise from bottom left: Maia LaBoy, Crystie Wong, Alexis Villa, Maile Goodin, coach Steve Caley, Taylor Wong, Cianna Ochoco, Athena Adora, Ashlee DeSantos and Ashley Agcaoili.

If this were a job, there’d be overtime pay and the workers would be grumbling.

Instead, it’s a passion, obsession and mission. Shortly after 6 a.m., there are jokes and smiles between the occasional yawns. When the Maryknoll Spartans get up before sunrise to be at the gym, it’s the start of another 16-hour day. Some days begin with weightlifting. Others are strictly about fundamentals. But they always end before 8 a.m., in time for a full day of school and homework.

While the rest of Hawaii sleeps in on Saturday mornings, the Spartans keep working. Back in August, first-year coach Steven Caley saw a key to success in a busy, crowded environment, and his players have responded. They hit the gym again and again, at 6:30 a.m.

Now, Maryknoll is lighting up the scoreboard in league play. Three wins, no losses into the regular season, each just one step closer to the ultimate: a Division II state championship. With a returning All-State guard in Ashley Agcaoili, it’s very possible.

"At our first practice, before we started, we huddled and coach told us to yell, ‘1-2-3, states!’ That’s the last time we’ll say it until we get back to states," Agcaoili said.

They’re a step quicker, increasingly sharp and much more accurate than most teams this early in the basketball season. It all goes back to that early-to-bed, early-to-rise work ethic, and it doesn’t stop on the hardwood.

Five Spartans carry a grade-point average of at least 3.7 — four have 4.0 GPAs. Caley, who wears a gray T-shirt bearing a "Ballers and Scholars" slogan, hasn’t done the math yet, but estimates that the team GPA is around 3.5 — an astounding average for any team in any sport. The perfect four: Ashley Agcaoili, Amanda Busmente, Kimiko Mitchell and Taylor Wong.

Last season, Agcaoili was voted to the Star-Bulletin Girls Basketball All-State Fab 15, even though her team struggled against the powerhouses of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu. This season, she is averaging nearly 22 points per game, including a high of 28 against Lutheran, and has scored 44 percent of her team’s total. Through all the previous struggles, Agcaoili and her teammates have persevered and thrived in the classroom.

"It’s worth it. You feel really good about yourself," she said.

Wong, a senior guard, credits her instructors.

"Depending on the teacher, they make it pretty understandable, so it’s not bad," she said. "It’s getting progressively easier."

Athena Adora, a junior forward with a 3.7 GPA, is a big fan of chemistry class.

"It’s not as hard as statistics," she claimed.

Not everything is designed to cramp the brain. Wong’s favorite class is painting.

"You paint pictures. We just finished monochromatic painting. It’s different shades of one color," she said.

Another class Wong likes is AP biology, but Agcaoili is no fan of the subject.

"AP bio, it’s really hard. The last time I took bio was last trimester, so I kind of forget everything. The book is like 10 pounds and has a thousand pages."

Wong said the biology book is actually just 7.4 pounds.

For all her complaints about biology, Agcaoili actually appreciates her economics class.

"The teacher treats us like his kids, and the stuff you learn isn’t just one thing. It relates to the entire world. It’s fun and we do a lot of activities," she said.

Success in the classroom carries over to the basketball court, and vice versa, according to the Spartans.

"Same concept. Repetition," Wong said.

"In basketball, you do drills over and over, it’s going to come naturally," Agcaoili added. "The bonding. It brought us together."

Now, it’s one game at a time, one goal at a time. Maryknoll has a big test Thursday: a showdown with University High.

"It’s going to be a big one. Besides, Punahou, ‘Iolani, Kamehameha, I think UH is a team to look out for," Agcaoili said. "My brother goes to UH Lab, so I’ve seen them practice when we go to pick him up."

All the hours have Caley’s voice coarse and worn, but he remains chipper and energetic.

"I make sure their legs aren’t too tired, but they really connect with each other and they’re coming together as a family," he said. "It’s a full-time job, I’ll tell ya. This and teaching keep me really busy."

The goal is to reach the state tourney, Caley added, but beyond that?

"Hopefully, we can bring home a really big trophy," he said. "But the ultimate goal is to get all our seniors into top universities."

 

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