Punahou edges Science Hill (Tenn.) for tournament title

Punahou completed its nonconference schedule with three home wins in a row to capture the Punahou Invitational. Photo by Paul Honda/Star-Advertiser.

Noah Kameehonua scored 16 points, Ryder Hsiung had 12 and Yoshi Kobayashi chipped in nine, including a key reverse layup with 2:25 left as Punahou escaped with a 65-59 win over Science Hill (Tenn.) in the final of the Punahou Invitational on Monday.

It was a wild, frenzied first half with both teams going full tilt on fastbreaks, then ground down to a defensive struggle in the second half. Things weren’t exactly chippy, but there was plenty of feistiness by each squad in the championship game. Hsiung and Kobayashi were selected by tournament officials to the All-Tournament team.

“Coach Darren (Matsuda) really prepared us,” Kobayashi said. “He said they were going to be well and go in to the big. We played well by playing pack line (defense) and stopping them.”

Thomas Messimer led the Hilltoppers with 11 points. The long-range shooter was 3-for-9 from the arc. Jordan McLoyd sparked a rally with 10 of his 12 points in the third quarter. Jake Matherne scored 10 points, all in the paint, and Keynan Cutlip, Amare Reed and Hunter Phillips chipped in nine each.

Punahou was scorching hot from the field and used its fullcourt pressure to force 16 turnovers in the first half.

“I just wanted to bring the energy early so we could have that 20-point lead,” said Hsiung, a 6-4 junior. “We kind of maintained it and we did a pretty good job in the end.”

Riding its fullcourt pressure, the home team led 30-10 with 3:18 left in the second quarter after a foul shot by Alexandru Iosivas.

“I’m very disappointed that we came out flat. We knew what to expect coming in (from Punahou’s press). We weren’t sharp at all with the basketball,” Hilltoppers coach Ken Cutlip said. “To start the game, they were probably two steps quicker to the ball. They made some shots when the momentum started going their way.”

Then came the big run.

“We tried to stay in the moment,” Matsuda said. “Science Hill is a really good team and a great program. We tried to hit our good stride in the beginning. Our press was working pretty good, but we knew they were going to come back. Basketball is a game of runs. You’re never out of the game as long as you’re hustling, and they’re very athletic and they hustle.”

It was a physical battle from end to end, and when one of the Hilltoppers was whittled for a foul in the paint on light contact, Cutlip was assessed a technical foul with 4:29 to play in the second quarter. By game’s end, the teams combined for three technicals, but more importantly, the Hilltoppers refused to give in.

Iosivas added nine points off the bench after center Jordan Deshawn Hepting got into early foul trouble. Iosivas, Hepting and Ioasa Tua were major keys for Punahou against the gigantic Hilltoppers, a program that has won three Tennessee Class AAA state titles in the past 11 years. Iosivas eventually fouled out, putting the onus on Tua.

The visitors were scrappy and energized after Cutlip pleaded with them during timeouts to increase their effort. The ‘Toppers cut the lead to 15 by halftime. Then, in the third quarter, they unveiled a fullcourt press of their own that led to six Buffanblu turnovers.

A savvy play by Keynan Cutlip, the coach’s son, led to a double-foul call against him and Hepting. That gave Hepting, a 6-7 rebounder, his fourth personal with 4:23 left in the third, and he sat down again. Hunter Phillips’ free throw cut it to 40-36 late in the third stanza.

“We felt like we would have a chance if we could get our kids to play a little harder. You’re playing a good team on their home floor, and they’re playing well. We knew it would be a challenge,” Coach Cutlip said. “We just dug too big a hole.”

Science Hill trailed 46-42 entering the fourth quarter.

“I thought that was a huge (sequence), too. We changed our defense. We went to a zone and got them to miss a long 3,” Cutlip said. “Then they had a missed shot and gave up an offensive rebound and they hit a 3. We never really recovered from that.”

Kameehonua hit that 3, plus a layup as Punahou opened the lead to 51-42 and kept Science Hill at bay. Peyton Macapulay fed Kobayashi for a reverse layup and a 58-50 cushion with 2:25 left, Science Hill still wouldn’t quit.

A foul by Cutlip with 1:18 left was followed by a verbal exchange with Kameehonua, who was assessed a technical foul. Macapulay missed his foul shots, and Messier delivered at the other end on the technical shots to bring the ‘Toppers within 59-54.

Tua, a 6-3 senior, hit a much-needed free throw down the stretch and came up with a crucial rebound. Down eight, Science Hill got a corner 3 from Messimer to get within 62-57 with 56 seconds left. That was as close as it got.

“It was important to get a game like this. We were struggling to get a game like this. We were struggling closing games. To get a win in a close win is going to help us grow and keep building,” Matsuda said. “The ILH this year is incredible. It’s probably one of the best (overall) talent I’ve seen in a long time.”

Science Hill, meanwhile, showed why it has been a powerhouse for more than a half-century. That pressure was impressive by the tall, long ‘Toppers, who dominated the boards and went about trapping Punahou every chance they could in the second half.

“Actually, we do press quite a bit. The way the games have been called the first three nights, I was really concerned about foul trouble,” Cutlip said. “I had both of my point guards foul out two nights ago, so we tried to manage that early in the game.”

The Hilltoppers will enjoy one more day in the islands. There’s a trip to Pearl Harbor on the itinerary. Then they and they robust fans — roughly 70 of them cheered from start to finish at full volume — will head back to Tennessee.

“Life’s about dealing with setbacks and things not going your way. Everybody can handle things when everything’s good. It’s how you handle the things that are bad that defines who you are,” Cutlip said. “That’s why I love sports. You’ve got to make good decisions and respond the right way.”

Punahou, ranked No. 4 in the Star-Advertiser Boys Basketball Top 10, opens its ILH regular season at Saint Louis — and former Buffanblu coach Dan Hale — on Friday.


  1. Ryder Ke’ane December 31, 2019 8:04 am

    After watching this invitational, and this team for the last two years, it’s so obvious how Matsuda plays favoritism. The team has been in decline since the departure of Arceneaux and Matt. It makes it quite clear Matsuda is not a coach, nor a positive role model for these outstanding students. Surprising parents don’t complain considering the tuition they pay to participate in activities! What’s even more disappointing is to watch Coach Ane attend most or all games and and see his facials when Matsuda screws up. Unfortunate for the actual strong players of this team, that are consistent and watch the favorites get all the playing time. Blame Punahou’s board!

  2. ILoveHawaii December 31, 2019 11:49 am

    How does this favoritism manifest itself?

  3. MY OPINION December 31, 2019 11:57 am

    Stop complaining, coach Matsuda does a excellent job, if you can do better please apply for the position, also no body pays to play any activities, no body owes you anything, if you dont like it talk to the AD or the coach, or apply for the position.

  4. ILoveHawaii December 31, 2019 12:01 pm

    Son not getting enough playing time

    – favoritism
    – coach not a positive role model
    – program declining
    – tuition entitles playing time
    – AD not doing his job
    – favorites get all the playing time.

    Answered my own question.

    Not a Matsuda fan by no stretch of the imagination but they have had some success in the past few years.

  5. Nelson Young December 31, 2019 3:56 pm

    I have no kids at punahou, but in the last 5 years, that I have seen them play,I honestly think they are 1 of the best Basketball teams in the state, record can speak for it self, as for favortism, I dont see it I see the best players out there, you look at this years team, its supposed to be a rebuilding year, but they are doing pretty good, Marynoll and Kam are the favorites but Punahou will be competitive, how can you blame the board when every year they either win the ILH or finish close, all I hear is people complaining about the coaches, remember if you can do better please apply for the job.

  6. Mainlander December 31, 2019 6:20 pm

    There is definitely a favoritism. especially to the recruited football players ….saving a spot on the basketball team is not helpful in the long run as all they do is take up space on the roster and killing dreams for the hard working basketball kids. Yeah, there is favoritism…..
    Let’s NOT close one eye to this issue….may become a problem……pick the best kids for the sports they are dedicated to…..don’t save spots for anyone………be fair!!!

  7. JOSEPH KAAEKUAHIWI January 1, 2020 6:20 am


  8. Curious January 1, 2020 9:44 am

    @ Mainlander
    Who’s on the team that’s a recruited football player? Who did he save spots for? You can’t take away anything from kids that play multiple sports. Then train just as hard to.

  9. Mainlander January 1, 2020 6:22 pm

    If you have to ask “who recruits football player”??? you must be new on the island…..
    Who recruits football players is all the major ILH schools…..and they also promise them they will play 2-3 sports……most of times it works out because they are good enough athletics to accomplish this task.
    However now the spots/opportunities are limited, and there are many footballer getting spots on the basketball rosters……believe me, they are just big and use for purpose of taking up space and to foul, thus island basketball level is low……”iolani classic” proves the difference in skill level with mainland teams.

  10. PONO January 1, 2020 9:03 pm

    Mainlander using the Iolani classic as a bench mark for expected basketball on the island is insane. Those are teams in the top 25 and they routinely get national level transfers to their programs.

  11. Go OIA January 1, 2020 10:00 pm

    Can’t lie. I just love to read the comments from uneducated buffoons about favouritism and poor leadership. It’s always a fantastic laugh. Four consecutive appearances in the state championship, five total, won two state championships overall, and no record of illegal activity (unlike other coaches).

  12. Curious January 2, 2020 4:24 am

    @ Mainlander

    My ? To you is who on the basketball team is a football recruit? You talking about basketball and saving spots. I’m asking you who’s he saving spots for?

  13. Curious January 2, 2020 4:40 am

    @ Mainlander

    Does your son go to Punahou and got CUT? Look at the picture. None of those bigs on the team played football. Look their name up and try look if their name is on the football roster.
    Now you can never compare Iolani Classic and Hawaii basketball. You Crazy!!!!!

  14. The Truth Shall Set You Free January 2, 2020 5:58 am

    Doesn’t Punahou platoon meaning more playing time for everyone on the team? Have seen other ILH teams go only 7-8 deep once the regular season starts.

  15. Mainlander January 2, 2020 2:03 pm

    @Curious………why don’t you bring up your standards UP a little…why not compare to mainland teams.
    and about THE state championships……..the league so small here, it’s hard to call it a state championship…mainland it’s called conference championship…..go oia…..yeah they should have “open division” for all the sports….not just football.

  16. ILoveHawaii January 2, 2020 2:44 pm

    Did your son make the team and doesnt get playing time or did your son not make the team?

    And if its neither, whats your beef with the program? Or with the state of basketball in Hawaii??

  17. Curious January 2, 2020 2:46 pm

    @ Mainlander

    You still didn’t answer any of my ?’s You keep going around my ?

    Why I don’t compare to mainland teams? Cause you comparing it to Iolani Classic. Those teams are top 25 teams. Punahou won their tournament beating Mainland teams. with your so called football players….. so standard is already high……

    so go back and answer my?’s

  18. Mainlander January 2, 2020 6:55 pm

    @Ilove Hawaii……..my sons are doing fine ….. leave my sons out of this…….you truly don’t know there are recruiting ?? especially football ?? and promised certain things, including roster spots in other sports….truely??? open your eyes bra…….also I don’t have any beef if any program…..it is what it is….

    @Curious …… you are correct I can’t name anyone this year……but the favoritism is real……and on going.

  19. ILoveHawaii January 3, 2020 8:21 am

    Smartest thing you said so far.

    It is what it is.

    Now prepare your “sons” to control what they can and leave no doubt in the coaches eyes that they belong on the court.

    I cant speak to what you are alleging but I can say that the program has been successful, at least for the past 3-4 years with whatever formula the coach has been utilizing. I dont see him changing any time soon.

    Or, take em to Moanalua, I hear they have a great program and its DRAMA free.

  20. Mainlander January 3, 2020 3:43 pm

    @ilovehawaii……….not alleging anything……….IT HAS HAPPENED……IS HAPPENING …….
    MY other son went thru with Manti era………….recruit happens……favortism happens……..not gripping……just want to bring it out………seems like you have tons of time checking on all the rosters and such……..so go talk to some more people……..it is a fact….ok smart guy?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email hawaiiprepworld@staradvertiser.com.