One night can change everything.
The Kamehameha Warriors know this. So do the Punahou Buffanblu. Punahou was one second away from advancing to the third-place final of the ILH playoffs on Wednesday night.
All the home team had to do was defend what would likely be a miracle shot attempt by the visiting Warriors. With 1.5 seconds on the clock and the ball on the other end of the court, Kala‘i Smith inbounded the ball to EJ Kapihe roughly 50 feet away.
Video courtesy of @kskboysbasketball on IG.
Punahou guarded everyone tightly, including Kapihe. However, the Buffanblu defender on Kapihe gambled and went for a steal on the long pass, and missed. One dribble and Kapihe let it fly, shooting off his right foot as a second defender challenged his shot. Kapihe’s foot was on the 3-meter line of the volleyball court when he let it go. The shot was roughly 38 to 40 feet out.
“I don’t even know when was the last time I made a halfcourt shot,” said Kapihe, a 6-foot-5, 215-pound senior. “It was more of a deep 3, though.”
Prior to Kapihe’s game winner, Kamehameha trailed by 21 points before rallying. Punahou missed a free throw prior to the final play and the Warriors immediately called time out.
Kamehameha coach Larry Park recalls a game at Hemmeter Fieldhouse in the 1990s. He was an assistant to head coach James Winchester at the time.
“A Punahou player hit a shot just past halfcourt at the buzzer to send the game into overtime,” Park said. “They won in overtime.”
Kapihe finished with 19 points, including a key 3 down the stretch. Smith also hit a crucial 3 on a feed from Kapihe and tallied 11 points.
“I’m very tired and still in disbelief of what happened,” Kapihe said on Thursday morning.
Kamehameha’s 6-4 wing, Kahiau Bruhn, had two points before injuring a knee in the first quarter. Coach Park said there is no update yet.
“We’re playing for him now,” Kapihe said.
The loss ended Punahou’s season. Just over a week ago, the Buffanblu were ranked No. 2 in the Star-Advertiser Top 10 and riding a four-game win streak, including a 70-55 win at Kamehameha. They were one win away from securing an automatic state-tournament berth during the regular season, but lost to first-place Saint Louis. After a loss to ‘Iolani that would have created a tiebreaker logjam for second place, Punahou had Kamehameha on the ropes on Wednesday night.
Fifth-ranked Punahou ends the season 11-7 overall. No. 8 Kamehameha (9-7) will be in elimination mode again on Thursday night in Maryknoll’s gym. Two-time defending state champion Maryknoll, ranked No. 3, ousted Mid-Pacific on Wednesday, 65-51.