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Saint Louis, Punahou make D-I final an all-ILH affair

Feb. 24—Another night, another clinic on offensive rebounding by the Saint Louis Crusaders.

Another night, another clinic on offensive rebounding by the Saint Louis Crusaders.

The top seed ravaged Kalaheo with 10 offensive rebounds in the first half en route to a 58-40 win on Friday night at Hemmeter Fieldhouse. The ILH champions will meet ILH rival Punahou today in the Divison I title game of the Heide & Cook /HHSAA Boys Basketball State Championships at Blaisdell Arena.

The edge on the boards was extreme. Two-time defending state champion Saint Louis (25-5 ) outboarded Kalaheo 21-4 in the first half, and led 35-17. Saint Louis finished with a 36-15 edge on the glass while shooting 53 % (23-for-43 ) from the field in a classic, old-school style of ball. In their 60-29 quarterfinal win over Nanakuli, Saint Louis amassed 15 offensive boards. On Friday, the Crusaders finished with 14 offensive caroms against Kalaheo, one of the most potent offensive squads in the state.

"Absolutely. Kalaheo has such good shooters. With five guards, you've got to try and counter that somehow. The way you can slow them down is get offensive rebounds. It gives you time to get back, and along with that, you've got to take good shots, the shots you want to take so they can't run out on you, " Crusaders coach Dan Hale said. "In the state tournament, you're playing teams with different styles. You see what kind of style kind of matches."

Pupu Sepulona finished with 25 hard-earned points on 9-for-17 shooting from the field. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound junior was also 6-for-9 from the free-throw line with team highs of 11 rebounds and three steals. Point guard Shancin Revuelto and Stone Kanoa chipped in eight points each.

"Our coach always reminds us and tells us we have to get every offensive rebound because if we can control the rebounds, we can control the game, " Sepulona said. "Our defense was so good. I feel like it was great. We all work together, we stopped them and we got rebounds. It's a team win."

One night after posting a triple-double in a win over Baldwin, CJ Bostic led Kalaheo (21-14 ) with 12 points on 5-for-16 shooting from the floor. The versatile swingman was limited to three rebounds and two assists.

Payton Smith added nine points on 3-for-8 shooting from the arc. In all, the Mustangs shot just 20 % from deep (3-for-15 ).

Saint Louis' man-to-man defense remains a staple of their title runs under Hale.

"Our coaches were telling us to pound the ball inside to Jordan (Posiulai ) and Pupu because they had no big inside, so that was our game plan, " Revuelto said. "Jordan can guard any guard in the state. We trusted him and he did it. Defense is our thing. That's what got us to this point right now and hopefully, it'll carry into tomorrow."

Kalaheo was one of the most dangerous teams in the state, finishing in a first-place tie atop the OIA East. The Mustangs struggled in the league playoffs and finished sixth. Kalaheo then went to Mililani and knocked out OIA runner-up Mililani, 51-48, in the opening round of states.

On Wednesday, the Mustangs routed MIL champion Baldwin 76-55 in the quarterfinal round.

Playing its third game at Hemmeter Fieldhouse in 11 days, Saint Louis jumped to a 7-0 lead on a post bucket by Posiulai, and Sepulona's corner 3 and later, two free throws.

After Kanoa's putback at the buzzer, the Crusaders led 19-8 to end the first quarter.

From there, the Crusaders gradually extended the lead. Revuelto's lob pass to Jordan Nunuha for a bucket made it 26-10. Sepulona's hustle play for a putback at the buzzer opened the lead to 35-17 at the half.

Bostic scored two quick baskets, including one in transition on a feed from Jaron Gilmore, to start the second half. That cut the lead to 35-21 and prompted a timeout by Hale.

Saint Louis scored the next five points, including a bucket and two foul shots by Sepulona after an offensive carom. Kalaheo never threatened again.

Senior center Posiulai had six points and patrolled the paint with Sepulona and their springy, defensive-minded teammates.

"Now, we're being actually told to go get those boards. Now it's a lot better for our offense and defense, " he said.

Kalaheo senior Josh Schutter finished with six points.

"We just couldn't handle their inside presence. We tried our best. Just couldn't get it done, " Schutter said. "The brothers I gained along the way, coming here as a transfer, it's been great. All the guys treated me like family. I have memories for the rest of my life."

The Mustangs were one of the most improved teams in the state under longtime coach Rob Pardini. Kalaheo struggled at times in preseason but became a title contender over the course of the year.

"I thought (Pardini ) did a great job with them, " Hale said. "I saw that team in preseason. From then to now, he's done a really good job. It sucks to lose, but he did a really good job."