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2 months later, Punahou and Kahuku will settle score

Kahuku’s Tolu Smith was unstoppable according to Maryknoll coach Kelly Grant. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell/Star-Advertiser.

Nobody has forgotten that day in December when Punahou and Kahuku played to the very end.

The game was tied at 48 on Dec. 20 when Cole Arceneaux made the winning shot, giving Punahou a first-day win over Kahuku in the St. Francis Holiday Hoops Classic. Photos after the game showed that the ball was still in Arceneaux’s shooting hand when the clock hit :00.

Friday’s final in Snapple/HHSAA Boys Basketball State Championships might go down to the wire. Again. Kahuku-Punahou will be also be a rematch of last year’s state final, won by the Red Raiders 70-55.

. . .

It may have been a bit sloppy, but Punahou is in the state final while ILH champion Maryknoll is not. The Spartans lost to Kahuku 49-43 in the other semifinal, setting up what quite a few fans had anticipated during the offseason. Kahuku (27-4), the defending champion, is back in the title game.

“It’s surreal,” Kahuku senior Tolu Smith said.

“Tolu was a beast,” Maryknoll coach Kelly Grant said. “We had no answer for him. We beat the defense on drives, but he was always there.”

Just like that, a magnificent Maryknoll season comes up just a bit short in the semifinal round. The discipline of Kahuku’s swarming, hustling defense with the 6-foot-10 Smith in the paint led to some eye-popping numbers.

>> Maryknoll shot 32.7 percent from the field (18-for-55) >> The Spartans were 5-for-22 (23 percent) from the arc >> Maryknoll shot just three free throws in the entire game (2-for-3) >> They also grabbed 17 offensive rebounds and outboarded Kahuku 28-25

Then there are these numbers by Kahuku.

>> 18-for-34 from the field (53 percent) >> 43 percent from the arc (3-for-7) >> 10-for-12 at the foul line (83 percent)

Smith and Marcus Damuni led Kahuku with seven rebounds each. Smith and Ethan Erickson each had three steals. Kahuku also had 14 turnovers.

“We’ve got to keep our turnovers down,” Smith said.

Kahuku, with 3-for-7 shooting from the arc, had its second-straight day of clutch perimeter work. The Red Raiders were 7-for-18 in a quarterfinal win over Kamehameha-Hawaii. That has taken much of the burden off their 6-foot-10 senior, Smith, who scored 17 points for the second night in a row.

“If we hold him under 20 (points), that’s a win,” said Makaula, a versatile 6-3 defender. “Have him kick the ball out. They’re not that great shooters.”

That may have been true prior to the state tourney, but now it could be any of the Red Raider starters hitting from deep. Lokana Enos. Robbie Sauvao. Point guard Ruanui Winitana. The Red Raiders are shooting 40 percent from 3-point land (10-for-25) during this tourney.

Smith can expect what he saw back in December: constant fronting, Punahou bringing backside help, perhaps even guards like Chong and Arceneaux darting in constantly. It’s a royal mess that Punahou creates for any big who tries to put the ball on the floor. Even a stellar low-post scorer with tremendous footwork and IQ like Smith has to be careful.

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2 months later, Punahou and Kahuku will settle score

#GalenToluSmithIII #MarcusDamuni #LokanaEnos #RobbieSauvao #RuanuiWinitana

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