Kahuku routs Punahou for first D1 state title

Kahuku's Mark Viloria douses coach Brandyn Akana with a Snapple drink after the Red Raiders defeated Punahou for the Division I title.CJ Caraang | SL

MANOA — The 2017 basketball title belongs to the North Shore.

Top-ranked Kahuku was too much for Punahou late in the game for a 70-55 win as the Red Raiders capture their first Division I basketball title in the Snapple/HHSAA Boys Basketball Championships at the Stan Sheriff Center in front of 3,565 fans.

"It's a season and dream come true. Every night these guys battled and every opponent, we took seriously. Every game, we brought the intensity and these guys were hungry all year long and they wanted it," said Kahuku coach Brandyn Akana.

After going 0-4 in state title games, the Red Raiders end their frustrations to break through. The Red Raiders were Division A champions in 1971, 1973 and 1974. The loss to the Buffanblu in the preseason back on Dec. 5 and the 2012 championship game is all but a distant memory.

"This championship is dedicated to the community and their support for us and the coaching staff for all their hard work. It's surreal and it's a wonderful feeling," said Jessiya Villa.

Kahuku (14-0 OIA, 26-3 overall) went untouched in the Oahu Interscholastic Association regular season, but overcame Kailua by two in the OIA playoffs and edged out defending state champion Iolani in overtime in the state semifinals to get here.

"We're going to take hits and sometimes we're going to go sideways, but we'll be right back up. We'll get a chance and we made stops at the end and that's what won us the game," said Akana.

"Throughout the season, we got some licks, but that made us better as a team and it made us work toward our goal even harder," said Villa.

The Buffanblu (11-3 ILH, 26-6 overall) won the Interscholastic League of Honolulu, but came up short for the second-straight year in the championship game. Despite the loss, Darren Matsuda felt his squad accomplished a lot.

"I'm proud of our kids. Our program and school, we do it the right way. Our whole thing is to build champions on and off the court. Yeah, we lost the game, but I don't care, it's a basketball and my kids are going to learn the right life lessons and to do it the right way and it will carry on for the rest of their lives," said Punahou coach Darren Matsuda.

Villa scored a team-high 23 points—10 of those points came from the free throw line in the fourth quarter.

"If you want the ‘W', you have to get a good point guard. He wanted the ball at the end of the game and hit his shots. He is that type of player and competitor," said Akana, on Villa.

Samuta Avea, a University of Hawaii commit, gave fans a glimpse of what to expect when he suits up for the Rainbow Warriors. The senior poured in 20 points on 6-of-11 shooting, grabbed 11 boards, and swatted four shots.

"I always knew I wanted to get back and get this done, but to do it, it's an unexplainable feeling," said Avea.

"All year long, he's improved, but he does so many good things, not only on offense—which he's a nightmare, but on defense, he's long, wiry, block shots. He's a complete player and the State of Hawaii should be really excited to have him for four years," said Akana, on Avea.

Daniel Fotu, the 6-foot-7 transfer from New Zealand, had timely baskets inside to finish with 14 points and eight rebounds and was disruptive on defense with his presence in the paint.

"It's a different experience and it feels so good. Yesterday, I had too many fouls and travels. Today I tried to focus not to do those things. I did my best for this team. The same effort I put on offense, I put on defense," said Fotu.

Punahou has been a deep threat from the perimeter all season, but tonight they shot 9-for-27 (33.3 percent) from the 3-point line and 22-for-57 (38.6 percent) from the field overall.

Mausolf scored a team-high 14 points on 4-for-7 from the 3-point line for the Buffanblu, Kobayashi scored 12 points, but shot 1-for-6 from the 3-point line, and Chong added 11 off the bench.

"We missed a lot of shots we usually make, but sometimes that's how the game goes," said Matsuda.

Kesi Ah Hoy and Codie Sauvao did the dirty work on defense all season and guarded the opposing team's best players. Tonight they were tasked taking turns guarding Chris Kobayashi, Zayne Chong and Cole Mausolf.

"They more than accepted the challenge and they got it done. Kekaula (Kaniho) came in and stepped up big too," said Avea.

"Kesi and Codie worked their butts off tonight and they got after it. Those guys brought it tonight," added Akana.

Both teams opened up the game shooting 40 percent or better, but it was the Red Raiders who took a 16-15 lead. Kahuku rolled to an 8-0 run to start the second on back-to-back 3's by Avea and Kekaula Kaniho, and following Kaniho's jumper, Punahou called timeout at 5:54.

The Buffanblu answered with five-straight points, however, Avea responded with a drive to the basket and finished a two-handed flush on the putback to make it, 35-26.

"I play really aggressive and play with a lot of emotion," said Avea.

Mausolf kept Punahou in the game with three of the Buffanblu's four 3-pointers in the first half, but found themselves down six.

Kahuku kept the Buffanblu at bay with at least a seven point cushion, but Maninoa Tufono hit back-to-back 3's and brought Punahou within two, 48-46 with over a minute left in the third. However, when Punahou got within striking distance, Kahuku answered back and extended the lead.

Duke Clemens was called for an intentional foul at the 4:35 mark and Villa split a pair of free throws to put the Red Raiders up by 10, 56-46 in the fourth. Punahou scored their first points of the game at the 3:44 mark and Clemens scored in the paint twice to bring Punahou within six, 56-50, but could not get any closer as Kahuku managed to close the game out with free throws and finished 22-for-33 (66.7 percent) overall.

"Most people didn't think we would be here. Like last year, this team has a lot of fight and a lot of will. We fought and got ourselves here, but unfortunately it didn't work out for us this year in this game," said Matsuda.

2017 Snapple Boys Basketball State Championships All-Tournament Team (as selected by the media and HHSAA) DIVISION I Daniel Fotu, Kahuku Jessiya Villa, Kahuku Zayne Chong, Punahou Hugh Hogland, ‘Iolani Cole Mausolf, Punahou Most Outstanding Player: Samuta Avea, Kahuku