Punahou dominates Kahuku for D1 title
MANOA — Third time's the charm and it wasn't even close.
After coming up short the past two seasons, Punahou unloaded their frustrations on defending state champion Kahuku, 64-37, in front of a crowd of 2,902 to win the Snapple/HHSAA Division I Boys Basketball State Championships at the Stan Sheriff Center.
The Interscholastic League of Honolulu Division I runner-up broke through to win their first state title since 2012 (also against Kahuku) and 11th overall in school history.
"For this group, it's a storybook ending," said Punahou coach Darren Matsuda, who wins his second state title with the Buffanblu. "We preach and instill to our kids and our program the life lessons about staying in the moment and persevering through struggle. It had to end this way for us to make the lesson complete."
Tamatoa Falatea led the Buffanblu with 12 points off the bench with a pair of 3's and Duke Clemens added 10. Seniors Cole Mausolf, Hunter Hosoda and Cole Arceneux each scored nine, and Zayne Chong added seven to round out a balanced scoring effort.
For Mausolf, Hosoda, Arceneaux and Chong, this was a special moment for them as they were a part of the teams that came up short in the past two title games.
"It feels great. Coming up short two years, we did this for our school, our coaches, I'm so proud of the guys and we finally pulled through," said Mausolf.
Arceneaux missed all of last season due an injury suffered from football but came back stronger in his senior year.
"I'm lost for words, it feels great I get to win it with these group of guys, third time's the charm. I love these guys," said Arceneaux.
Kahuku's Tolu Smith (1) had a game-high 23 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks, but it was the team effort of the Buffanblu that got the win. CJ Caraang | SL
Kahuku's only lead of the game came early after Marcus Damuni hit free throws, 4-2, but the Buffanblu exerted their tempo and speed that ignited a 9-0 run off steals that turned a 6-5 game into a 10-point lead after the first quarter.
"It was all about defense. Mea (Wong) and Kelly (Grant) had great game plans. We had a similar game plan and started putting it in a week ago in case the moment came. We tweaked it and we wanted to be aggressive on the ball and we felt we could create turnovers and turned that defense into offense," said Matsuda.
Chong and Arceneaux each hit back-to-back 3's to make it, 21-5, and Falatea scored nine of his 12 in the first half to lead, 30-17, at intermission.
The Buffanblu defense hounded the Red Raiders all night and forced 15 turnovers and got seven steals that led to 19 points.
"We knew they were going to try and get it to Tolu (Smith), so we wanted to pinch them and help backside to get steals. We wanted to play our pace and we knew if we did that, we would win the game," said Mausolf.
"They got their tempo, speed and it caused all kinds of problems," said Kahuku coach Brandyn Akana.
Punahou's ball movement was beautiful as it led to looks underneath the basket and on the perimeter. The Buffanblu scored 30 points in the paint and made six of their 12 3-pointers. Chong (five) and Hosoda (four) combined for nine of the team's 16 assists.
The Buffanblu as a team shot 23 of 45 for the game and made 12 of their 16 free throws.
"We play our best when we're moving the ball," said Chong.
This was the second consecutive night where Tolu Smith played all 32 minutes. He scored a game-high 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting, grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked five shots. He didn't get easy looks and Punahou made him work for every possession.
"It wasn't easy and they did a great job of scouting us and causing him to do more than what he usually does. He got tired, but I thought he had a great year," Akana said of Smith.
"Tolu, we had to make him work. We knew he would get his and would score. We had to make him work for every bucket and that's what we did and trusted each other," said Arceneux.
The Buffanblu led by as much as 27 and all 15 players on Punahou's roster logged minutes to experience the championship moment.
Kahuku shot 13 of 29 from the field, including 1 of 10 from the perimeter and shot 50 percent (10 of 20) from the free throw line.
Despite being the reigning champion, this season had its share of challenges for the Red Raiders as it broke in new faces, battled through ailments and lost to Kalaheo in the OIA championship game.
"It was a great season. We went through a lot of obstacles, but out of all the teams, we're playing where we want to play on the last night of the season. We got better and better and went deep enough in the tournament," said Akana.
Both teams met earlier in the preseason where Buffanblu won 50-48 on Dec. 20 in the Saint Francis Holiday Hoops Classic. Punahou also avenged last year's final loss to the Red Raiders, 70-55.
Snapple/HHSAA Boys Basketball Division I All-Tournament Team (as selected by the media and HHSAA)
Cole Arceneaux, Punahou Tolu Smith, Kahuku Nalu Kahapea, KS-Hawaii Duke Clemens, Punahou Hunter Hosoda, Punahou
Most Outstanding Player: Zayne Chong, Punahou