Twenty-six years is a mighty long time between championships, but the Maryknoll Spartans will take it.
The Spartans got 22 points from guard Kaleb Gilmore, and the sophomore combined with junior Joshua Burnett for four key free throws in the final 32 seconds as No. 2 Maryknoll edged No. 3 Punahou 57-53 to win the Interscholastic League of Honolulu boys basketball crown on Friday night.
A capacity crowd at T.C. Ching Gymnasium at Maryknoll saw the home team end an ILH-title drought that went back to the 1986-87 season, when Tony Sellitto was coach. Current coach Kelly Grant played under Sellitto as a shooting guard on the ’83-84 league championship team.
“The last time we won, we had Jimmy Kalaukoa. I was at that game,” said Grant, now a teacher at the school. “Our (school) president made it clear to us that it’s been two cycles since Maryknoll last won. I think every single teacher was here watching us tonight.”
About 100 fans stayed after the game as the Spartans cut a net down. After a boisterous night, it was a quiet few minutes until Grant cut the final strand.
“It’s special to win back at my alma mater, for everybody here. There’s a piece of this for everybody,” said Grant, who guided Kaimuki to a state title in 2007.
Both teams had already clinched state-tournament berths. Punahou (19-7) needed to win and capture the ILH tournament title to set up a one-game-take-all matchup with the regular-season champion, Maryknoll, on Saturday. But it wasn’t necessary after the Spartans’ man-to-man defense limited the defending league champs from across Wilder Avenue.
“We’re a young team and this is one of those games when we were under a lot of pressure,” Buffanblu coach Darren Matsuda said. “We’re usually a good free-throw shooting team, but not today. And we had a lot of turnovers.”
The Buffanblu were 11-for-18 at the foul line and had 14 turnovers. They shot 37 percent from the field (18-for-49), including 6-for-24 from the 3-point arc, but reserve forward Justin Kam kept the visitors in the game by nailing four 3-pointers.
Maryknoll (23-2) also cleaned up on the glass with a 33-21 rebounding edge. Center Tobias Schramm, a 6-foot-9 senior, had eight points and a game-high 13 boards, and 6-5 sophomore Hyrum Harris had 10 points and 10 caroms.
“Free throws again. We struggled in the beginning, but we always knock down our free throws. We didn’t let (Punahou) come back,” said Schramm, whose team was 11-for-16 at the line (69 percent).