Punahou ousts Kahuku in first round
On a night when the home team shot 9-for-24 from the free-throw line, Punahou fans could’ve had a lot to worry about.
Instead, the Buffanblu jolted the visiting Kahuku Red Raiders with six steals in the second quarter to turn a one-point deficit into a 14-point halftime lead. Unseeded Punahou went on to oust Kahuku 64-48 on Monday night in the opening round of the Snapple/ HHSAA Division I Boys Basketball State Championship. The Buffanblu shot 54 percent from the field (27-for-50), including just 1-for-10 from 3-point range, but it didn’t matter.
Senior center Duke Clemens powered and finessed his way on the block for 16 points to pace the Buffanblu. Tamatoa Falatea helped spark the fast break with 11 points and Jakob Kimura added 10 points as the team followed its motto. Punahou increased the defensive heat to its preferred temperature, the boiling point of 212 degrees.
“Our coach really pushes us on the press game about getting it to 212,” said Falatea, who recently signed with Princeton to play football. “We got it to 212 and got the job done. Kahuku is a great team. Our coach said we have to win the battle for rebounds.”
Ethan Erickson led Kahuku (18-11), the OIA’s fourth-place team, with 14 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots. Lokana Enos added 12 points.
Interscholastic League of Honolulu runner-up Punahou (27-5 overall) will meet Maui Interscholastic League champion Lahainaluna at 5 p.m. on Thursday night at Moanalua’s gym.
Kahuku came to Hemmeter Fieldhouse with plans on containing Clemens and his crafty low-post skills, but Erickson picked up his third personal foul with 1.1 seconds left in the opening quarter. Marcus Damuni soon after suffered a head injury while trying to take a charging foul with 1:39 remaining in the second quarter. While Erickson returned in the second half, Damuni was unable to get back on the court.
Punahou’s high-pressure, fullcourt coverage also caused problems. Kahuku led 12-11 entering the second quarter, but committed seven of its 21 turnovers during the next eight minutes and fell behind 34-20.
“We’ve got some young guards, and once you start turning the ball over it’s hard to get back on track,” Kahuku coach Brandyn Akana said.
“Their defense got excited and active.”
Punahou coach Darren Matsuda said his team had its share of early-game adrenaline and jitters.
“We needed to calm down a little bit. Every first game (in the state tournament) is like that. It’s adrenaline and nerves. We had to remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint, just play the way you usually do,” Matsuda said.
Punahou took the lead early in the second quarter at 16-14 on Maninoa Tufono’s turnaround bank shot on the block, which began with a clean cross screen by Clemens, a future UCLA offensive lineman. Kimura’s steal and pass to Falatea for a layup extended the lead to four points.
Kimura’s three-point play on a fast-break bucket gave Punahou its biggest lead to that point, 21-14.
With Matsuda flooding the court with mass substitutions all game long, the Buffanblu went on another mini-run in the last few minutes of the first half. Clemens picked Kahuku guard Shon Reid near midcourt and scored easily, and Yoshi Kobayashi turned his steal into another Punahou layup for a 25-17 lead.
Moments later, Kobayashi and Peyton Macapulay scored on steals, and after Kobayashi fed Ryder Hsiung for a layup before the buzzer, Punahou’s lead zoomed to 34-20. Kahuku got no closer the rest of the way.