When is a loss a good loss?
Possible when it happens in the league opener, with a young team that will only learn from the experience, improve and get better.
That was the assessment of Punahou boys coach Darren Matsuda, after his No. 1-ranked Buffanblu rallied but fell to No. 9 Mid-Pacific 56-54 Wednesday night at Mills Gym on the Mid-Pacific campus.
“Losing right now is not necessarily a bad thing,” Matsuda said. “I think it’s a good thing actually. Takes a little monkey off our back because of the (state top 10) rankings and what not. That’s (being No. 1) the worst place to be at the beginning of the season.”
Mid-Pacific, which got 26 points from senior Justin Daise and two key steals from junior Zion Shepherd late in the game, led almost the whole way.
The Owls grabbed a 14-6 lead after one period and had 16-point leads twice in the second period before taking a 30-19 advantage at intermission. They led 46-34 going into the final period before Punahou started raining 3s to tie it at 46. Daise would score eight points down the stretch and Shepherd got a layup off a steal to put MPI up 56-49. Punahou closed to 56-54 and had a desperation shot fall short as time expired.
Punahou charged back behind the dribble penetration of sophomore Cole Arceneaux and the 3-point shooting of sophomores, Cole Mausolf, Zayne Chong and Hunter Hosoda, as Mid-Pac concentrated on limiting the shots of 3-point marksman Chris Kobayashi, a junior.
“That was the first big game that counted for a lot of these guys. But you gotta give Mid-Pac credit. … They brought it to us,” Matsuda said. “They punched us in the mouth in the first and second quarter and had us on an eight-count a little bit. And so we had to come back and try to fight back. But that was big hole to come back from.
“I’m proud of my kids because they stayed in the moment. Even though they’re real young, they’re learning. I thought that was a good learning experience for us to be able to come back and to have the game in the balance at the end.”
Usual reliable free-throw shooters Arceneaux and Chong both missed two free throws with the game tight. Arceneaux missed his with the game tied at 49 with 3:35 to play and Chong missed his with MPI up 52-49 with 1:14 left.
“Zane’s pretty much an 89 percent free-throw shooter and Cole’s a very good shooter, too, and those are learning experiences,” Matsuda said. “And I think for both those guys the first big varsity game, they’re going to get better. They’re going to get better from it.”
So as Punahou presently sits at 0-1 in a tough ILH league, the future looks extremely bright for this season and beyond.
Punahou boasts a 15-player roster that features five seniors, two juniors, four sophomore and five freshman, as well as some good bloodlines.
Jared Lum, one of the starters, is a four-year varsity player and a senior captain whose father, Alan, played for two Punahou state championship teams and coached one (in 1999).
Arceneaux is the son of former Saint Louis and Utah quarterback Darnell.
Jack-Eli Tufono, a 6-5 junior center, and Maninoa Tufono, a 6-3 freshman forward, are the sons of Al, who starred at ‘Iolani and played football at Washington.
Falcon Kaumatule, a 6-6 freshman, is the younger brother of Luke and Canton, who play football at Stanford and Oregon, respectively.
“Punahou is a great team. Well coached. Ton of athletes, ton of studs,” said Mid-Pac coach Ryan Hirata.
“I think for us, that’s a good learning lesson and we’ll learn a lot from this game,” Matsuda said. “This game will probably help us a lot, hopefully.”