There never really was a bottom for the team that started on top, hit a few potholes, but revved up and relaunched to the top.
The Punahou Buffanblu finally got theirs, sweeping through the Snapple/HHSAA Boys Basketball State Championships. Punahou (29-4) ousted Lahainaluna 60-50, Moanalua 75-69 and Kahuku 64-37 for its first state title since 2012.
In the final Star-Advertiser Boys Basketball Top 10 of the season, Punahou collected all 11 first-place votes. The Buffanblu had been a unanimous No. 1 in the first five weeks of the poll, then fell from the throne for the next four weeks before returning to the top spot today.
The Buffanblu absorbed their share of blows in the always-ruthless Interscholastic League of Honolulu season, losing at home to Maryknoll, then on the road at ‘Iolani. After a loss to Maryknoll in the ILH final, the Buffanblu faced the consequences as an unseeded entry into the state tournament.
Instead of a brutal path, Punahou found itself in a path that was generally opposite of the road it had in 2016, when it won the ILH but had a tougher path. That scenario is what happened to this year’s ILH champ, Maryknoll.
The final rankings by coaches and media have state runner-up Kahuku (27-5) at No. 2. The Red Raiders, like Punahou, lost in their league championship game. However, they wound up in Maryknoll’s sub-bracket. Kahuku edged the Spartans, but seemed to lose vigor as key players logged long minutes. They weren’t the same team a day later against Punahou.
St. Francis (29-3), which won its second Division II state championship in a row, edged Maryknoll (28-7) for the No. 3 spot by a single point. The Saints were 5-3 against ranked teams this season, including a 55-48 win over Maryknoll at the Punahou Invitational.
No. 4 Maryknoll, the ILH D-I champion, was the only team to beat eventual state champion Punahou twice. The Spartans lost to Kahuku in the state semifinals 49-43.
Kamehameha (20-8) and Lahainaluna (20-7) finished tied at No. 5 in the final poll. The Warriors lost in the ILH playoff tournament and did not qualify for the state tourney. They were one of three teams that beat St. Francis.
Lahainaluna lost to eventual state champion Punahou in the state quarterfinals, then defeated Kalaheo 61-50 and Kapolei 57-55 in consolation play.
Moanalua (18-14) landed in the Top 10 for the first time this week at No. 7. Moanalua’s late-season surge turned the season around. After nearly missing the playoffs, Na Menehune closed regular-season play with three wins in a row, including a comeback victory over Farrington after trailing by 10 points that clinched a playoff berth.
Playoff wins over Mililani and Leilehua, both on the road, sealed a state-tourney spot. Then came a win at Kailua for fifth place, and a win at Konawaena in the opening round of the state tourney.
Two days later, Moanalua stunned OIA champion Kalaheo 52-50 in the quarterfinals. The loss to Punahou in the semifinal round was a microcosm of their season. Down big late in the game, a huge rally to get within striking distance in the final minute.
Kapolei (18-7), Kalaheo (20-13) and ‘Iolani (14-11) rounded out the Top 10.
Kamehameha-Hawaii (six), Damien (five) and Kalani also received votes in the final poll.
Honolulu Star-Advertiser Top 10