University basketball rolls along

Jan. 31—Related Photo Gallery: University faces Damien in ILH boys basketball

Koa Laboy poured in 23 points as No. 10-ranked University outlasted Damien 59-44 on Tuesday night at the Monarchs' gym.

"I'm a little relieved. I was stressed for a moment there. Damien really brought it to us tonight," ULS coach Ryan Tong said.

The Junior Rainbows moved one step closer to clinching the ILH Division II championship. At 10-0, they need just one more win in their final three regular-season games to seal a berth in the D-II state tournament.

The Junior Rainbows (20-3 overall) raced to a 14-2 lead and never relinquished it.

"They had some key turnovers and we capitalized on it early. Things got a little sloppy for us after and Damien made some unbelievable shots. Give them a lot of credit," Tong added.

Damien got within 16-12 late in the first quarter, but the Jr. 'Bows stayed within their offense and neutralized the Monarchs' fast break.

In the third quarter, free throws by AJ Tuifua and Levi Damo-Agcaoili cut the lead to 42-37. Laboy then answered with an and-1 play in the paint. ULS gradually stretched the lead, and the final 15-point margin was the largest of the night.

ULS limited Damien senior Raiden Silva to 0-for-3 shooting from the field, utilizing 6-4 Alika Ahu.

"Ahu's length, he's super aggressive and he has athleticism, too," Tong said.

Laboy added seven rebounds, three assists, three steals and a block. Ahu tallied nine points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals just three days after injuring his ankle against Hanalani.

Trey Ambrozich returned from a back injury to contribute 11 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and two blocks.

"My back's a little banged up. Coming into this game it was probably like 90%, but now it's feeling like 60, 50 again," the sophomore said. "We played great team ball today. Just move the ball, get it inside and then when they double, we get it outside, trust the shooters."

The young Monarchs dropped to 8-3 in league play. Since going 1-9 against a tough slate of mostly D-I opponents in preseason, the Monarchs have matured and won a slew of close battles.

Kainoa Santos led Damien with 13 points. Wyatt Ho-Williams added 10 points, while AJ Tuifua tallied eight points, five rebounds and three blocks.

"It's deceiving because he's a big guy. He has great feet, great hands, moves well," Tong said. "He's a tough matchup for our bigs."

Tuifua couldn't stop all three of ULS's post scorers.

"We had open looks tonight. If we hit some of those, the game would've been a lot different. Give UH a lot of credit, they hit their shots when they needed them," Damien coach Keith Spencer said. "That's the difference in the game. Physicality wise, I thought we matched them tonight, but they made their shots and we didn't."

ULS will play at Hawaii Baptist on Thursday and at Hanalani on Saturday.

Damien will host Hawaii Baptist on Saturday.