Campbell Cuts Up Kaiser, Force 29 Turnovers En Route to OIA Title Game Berth
By: Paul Brecht
MOANALUA — The Campbell Sabers (14-4, 12-0) used heavy defensive pressure and a frantic offensive pace to overwhelm the Kaiser Cougars (11-4, 10-2), 57-36, Monday night in the OIA Division I semifinals.
The Sabers, who finished as the top team from OIA West Division I this season with an unbeaten league record, opened the game down 2-0 after an offensive foul on the opening possession and a shooting foul on the defensive end.
It was the last time that Campbell would trail.
The Sabers would use a guard-heavy lineup to always keep the pace of play high, attacking the basket in transition after defensive stops and pressing a Kaiser team built better for half-court success.
Heading into the second quarter up 14-9, Campbell looked a step ahead of their opponents on both ends of the floor. The Sabers attacked the rim with vigor and passed the ball well as a collective unit.
Campbell forced 10 first-half turnovers, six of which were live ball turnovers that allowed the Sabers to get looks at the rim on the fast break. The West’s top-ranked unit headed into the locker room with a seven-point advantage over Kaiser, who settled more in the second quarter to keep within striking distance.
The second place OIA East representative found self-inflicted wounds to be a stark difference in the first half, as a 3-11 showing from the free throw line represented the entire difference and more at the break. With an aggressive Campbell defense that could be prone to fouls, the 23-16 lead was one that could explode at any time or shrink because of free throws given up.
The Sabers hit the court at a full sprint in the third quarter, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers to open the half. The 17-1 Sabers run would continue as the guards continued to get quality penetration against the Kaiser defense and forced multiple turnovers in the backcourt.
Just as all seemed lost for the Cougars, the Campbell bench was called for a technical foul with 1:39 remaining in the third quarter. The free throws, combined with the possessions before and after the tech, helped ignite an 8-2 Kaiser run to cut the deficit to 17 points heading into the game’s final eight minutes.
Unfortunately for the East representative, the Sabers defense proved to be too much. Campbell used the press to put away the Cougars and force 29 turnovers in total on the night in the 57-36 win.
Alexus Ma’ae was a major bright spot for Kaiser, leading all scorers with 24 points and 9 rebounds. The forward was unstoppable down low and contributed a 10-13 performance from the free throw line. The Cougars will take on Radford in the OIA 3rd place game on Wednesday at 6:30 PM.
Campbell received scoring contributions from 8 of the 10 players that saw the court, led by Julien Parado’s 12 points. Taysia Molina-Schulte chipped in 10 points for the Sabers, while Faith Mersburgh had nine points, six steals and five assists in the semifinal win.
Campbell advances to the OIA Division I championship on Wednesday night at 7:30 PM at Moanalua. The Sabers will take on Na Menehune, the two top teams in OIA Division I. The two squads met earlier in the season for a non-league matchup, where Campbell won, 76-35.