Defensive lockdown carries Punahou over La Jolla Country Day, 72-61

Punahou’s Yoshi Kobayashi (1) recovered a loose ball during a game against La Jolla in the Punahou Invitational in 2019. Photo by Andrew Lee/Special to the Star-Advertiser.

Yoshi Kobayashi raced to 18 points as Punahou pulled away for a 72-61 win over La Jolla Country Day (Calif.) on Saturday night.

Punahou (9-6) will meet Tennessee powerhouse Science Hill in the final of the Punahou Invitational on Monday at 8 p.m. Science Hill outlasted San Marcos, 68-60, in the other semifinal.

Ryder Hsiung tallied 16 points and Kanoa Kalahiki added 10 for the Buffanblu, who shot 13-for-27 from the foul line. Center Jordan Deshawn Hepting had 11 points, shooting 7-for-13 at the charity stripe.

An 8-0 run late in the first half opened Punahou’s lead to 32-22. From there, La Jolla continued to struggle from the field.

“We jumped the lanes a little bit. We got out in transition and that’s kind of our game,” Buffanblu coach Darren Matsuda said.

The game was tightly called for the most part. Punahou, which normally loves to pressure in a physical, relentless manner, adapted better than La Jolla did.

“I think we’re still learning. Peyton (Macapulay) is our only returning starter. Guys are stepping up. Yoshi and Ryder are doing a really good job. Jordan is doing a nice job, especially on the defensive end,” Matsuda said. “They’re growing and that’s what we need out of these guys.”

Defensively, Punahou’s man-to-man kept a lid on LJCDS’ normally hot shooters. Mark Begin led La Jolla with 18 points and Jake Bluestein added 12, all on 3-pointers.

“No. 13 (Gavin Bass-Sulpizio) with the red shoes is a really good shooter. He’s a little bit like (former ‘Iolani all-state player) Kawika Lee. He hits trail 3s all the time, so we said, ‘Hey, he’s Kawika Lee.’ So we were really wanting to watch him. And No. 2 (Bluestein) and No. 22 (Tate Smith), those were the three guys,” Matsuda said.

Bass-Sulpizio finished with one point and Smith had eight, all in the first half.

“Peyton was on No. 4 (Begin) because No. 4 can do everything. Yosh did a really good job, fighting through screens, and Kanoa, Noa was on them sometimes. I think it was a team effort, just trying to make things difficult for those guys,” Matsuda added.

Next up for Punahou is Science Hill. The Hilltoppers have won three Tennessee Class AAA state titles in the past 11 years.

“Science Hill is a big team, physical. I think they have their feet under them. The first couple of games, they weren’t flowing as well. This last game, they looked great,” Matsuda said. “They press a lot, so we have to be ready for that. Their two big guys are very good, and we have to be physical, too. They have a nice high-low game. They did a good job against San Marcos.”

Monday’s games
9:30 a.m. Le Jardin vs. Hamamatsu Tech (Japan)
11 a.m. Punahou II vs. ‘Iolani II
12:30 p.m. Hanalani vs. Kamehameha-Hawaii
2 p.m. Saint Louis II vs. Sacramento Adventist (Calif.)
3:30 p.m. Hawaii Baptist vs. Hilo
5 p.m. Sequoia (Calif.) vs. Thunder Mountain (Alaska)
6:30 p.m. La Jolla Country Day (Calif.) vs. San Marcos (Calif.)
8 p.m. Punahou vs. Science Hill (Tenn.), championship


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