Punahou’s title win over Kahuku all about family

Punahou guard Cole Arceneaux , right, kissed the championship trophy after the HHSAA Division I championship basketball game against the Kahuku Red Raiders. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.

The years of frustration came to an end for Punahou.

At the same time, the clock struck midnight for Big Red. Punahou’s 64-37 win was possibly the best performance for a group of seniors who had worked four years to reach the mountain peak. The final of the Snapple/HHSAA Boys Basketball State Championships drew 2,902 spectators who sounded more like 6,000 roaring fans at Stan Sheriff Center.

The buzz in the arena lasted for just a few minutes. By the time Punahou (29-4) was done with the opening quarter, Kahuku already had seven turnovers, the Buffanblu had six players in the scoring column, and the Red Raiders were out of fuel.

Kahuku didn’t quit, not even close. Down 15-5 entering the second quarter, the OIA runner-up kept battling, but there was no cure for the giveaways — 12 by halftime — and not much help for cold shooting. With two key players having played the maximum 32 minutes in Thursday’s semifinal win over Maryknoll, the Red Raiders were truly tested by Punahou’s warp-speed ambitions.

Tolu Smith faced constant harassment by the double- and triple-teaming Buffanblu defense, but finished with 23 points (9-for-16 from the field), 14 rebounds and five blocks in another marathon, 32-minute effort. However, point guard Ruanui Winitana, who was superb in his 32 minutes against Maryknoll, was smothered by Punahou’s defense and finished with 2 points on 1-for-9 shooting.

The tough senior finished with 31 minutes played. Punahou’s swarming defense was the worst possible matchup for Kahuku’s fatigued unit. The Buffanblu never seemed to tire, even though they played out of the unseeded opening round like Kahuku did. Depth and constant on-ball pressure were clearly Punahou’s hallmarks in winning the state title for the first time since 2012.

“The whole season we’ve been working on it, our press and our defense. Coach always tells us we’re the best team in the state and we have to back it up. We get out here every day and work,” senior Zayne Chong said. “We felt good. After the first quarter, anything can happen. With a 6-10 guy (Smith), anything is possible.”

After losing in the finals in 2016 and ’17, the Buffanblu are relieved and stoked.

“It’s the best way to go out. After the last two years, to get here and finally get a title, it’s crazy,” Chong said.

Hunter Hosoda, a senior point guard, was a blur on offense and defense. Kahuku no solution for him as he swooped in and stole the ball from Smith a couple of times on double teams. Cole Arceneaux, like Chong, didn’t score in double figures like he normally does. They simply played team basketball on both ends, and Punahou finished with five players scoring at least nine points.

For Arceneaux, the long road back from an ACL injury last year has been rewarded.

“Our team is one family. I love them. There’s no just one individual who does all the work,” he said. “Coming back from the knee injury, I got a lot of love for Physio Therapy. The grind (of rehab) after surgery, all the tears, this is worth it.”

Team leadership from the multitude of seniors was a group effort.

“We’re brothers. We’re like a family. We learned all these life lessons through the years,” Arceneaux said. “I trust everyone from 1 to 15, practice hard, push each other to the limits.”

The title is Punahou’s 10th in boys basketball, and the second under coach Darren Matsuda.

Division I

Match #DateMatchupTime/ScoresSite
1Feb. 12Konawaena vs. MoanaluaMoan, 62-52Konawaena
2Feb. 12Kahuku vs. KailuaKah, 54-38Kahuku
3Feb. 12Punahou vs. McKinleyPun, 59-39Punahou
4Feb. 12KS-Maui vs. KapoleiKapo, 49-34KS-Maui
5Feb. 14(1) Maryknoll vs. KapoleiMryk, 57-42Moanalua
6Feb. 14(4) KS-Hawaii vs. KahukuKah, 62-37Moanalua
7Feb. 14(2) Kalaheo vs. MoanaluaMoan, 52-50McKinley
8Feb. 14(3) Lahainaluna vs. PunahouPun, 50-40McKinley
9*Feb. 15Kapolei vs. KS-HawaiiKapo, 57-54Stan Sheriff Center
10*Feb. 15Kalaheo vs. LahainalunaLah, 61-50Stan Sheriff Center
11Feb. 15Maryknoll vs. KahukuKah, 49-43Stan Sheriff Center
12Feb. 15Moanalua vs. PunahouPun, 75-69Stan Sheriff Center
13*Feb. 16Kapolei vs. LahainalunaLah, 57-55Stan Sheriff Center
14*Feb. 16Maryknoll vs. MoanaluaMryk, 67-52Stan Sheriff Center
15Feb. 16Kahuku vs. PunahouPun, 64-37Stan Sheriff Center
* — consolation


  1. Niue Suschnigg February 17, 2018 8:11 am

    Congratulations Punahou!
    Kahuku was barely mentioned through out the season so to be fair, I have to say they did a heck of a job getting to the finals. Best Coaches determained to show these boys that they got game. Mahalo Kahuku Redlentless players you did well. I am very PROUD of you!!

  2. ??? February 17, 2018 8:12 am

    This result was kind of expected, Tolu Smith is Kahuku’s ONLY threat.
    Winitana (transfer from New Zealand) was 1 for 9 with only 2 points. What they really needed was Fotu! Does anyone know why he did not return from New Zealand?

  3. JR. Ale February 17, 2018 8:18 am

    This is the result when you bring in a big boy and then rely on that big boy the whole season. Props to Kahuku for making it to the title game back to back. But you guys surrounded your offense around one player. Losing the OIA and State title games is rough, but what’s more rough is that Kahuku didn’t recruit hard enough. Back to Mississippi. Just like Fotu did last year.

  4. JetWavy February 17, 2018 9:21 am

    “This is the result when you bring in a big boy and then rely on that big boy the whole season.”

    The result meaning make it to the state championship game? If that’s the case, they did a great job. Most teams across the state rely on one or two players to carry the load. Kahuku basically had Smith and all of last year’s third stringers playing this year. The result was a return to the championship. In response to the recruiting, Saint Francis has a Serbian kid, Kailua has a transfer and a kid from American Samoa, half the OIA teams are filled with military kids, Kelly Grant has brought in New Zealand and European kids, etc. etc. etc. Everybody and their mother recruits at some level. Kahuku just brings in the better talent than everybody else thus they get the bullseye placed on them.

    Punahou should be thanking Kahuku for knocking off #1 Maryknoll who had their number twice this season. And this whole state should be thankful Smith, who just turned 17 this year, is a senior and not a junior that was held back otherwise this state would have to deal with him one more season.

  5. KahukuIsOverated February 17, 2018 9:52 am

    Punahou is the weakeste champion I can remember. They only benefited from a easy bracket.

  6. Rebel February 17, 2018 11:40 am

    Recruit, Recruit, Recruit…sounds like college!!!

  7. Hmmm? February 17, 2018 12:56 pm

    I guess Akana better worry about Job Security, no OIA Champ or State Champ…

  8. 88 February 17, 2018 2:38 pm

    C’mon losers, show some class and keep it about the team that won. Congratulations Punahou. You guys played a very good game and deserve the win. Now bring on spring ball already.. GoBigRed!

  9. BowTow February 17, 2018 2:56 pm

    Kahuku’s other recruit and third starter (6’5″ forward Erickson) disappeared in the Championship game.

  10. PublicSchool February 17, 2018 4:47 pm

    Congratulations to Punahou! Dominated the game from start to finish. Wonder who the team/teams to beat will be next season?

  11. Loca1boiAnonymous February 17, 2018 5:27 pm

    Kahuku has a tough, young core coming up. They will be back strong sooner than later.

  12. Last Samurai February 17, 2018 5:34 pm

    Congratulations to Punahou and Coach Matsuda and Staff. You proved to be the best team in the state as you won the games you needed to win. You completely dominated Kahuku who were 2 steps behind you all night. But….Congratulations to Kahuku too for winning their games to get to the Championship Game. All the naysayers were left in the stands or at home watching the game, hehehe. Tolu Smith dominates the game and changes everyone’s game plan and play in the paint. He has my vote for “Outstanding Player for the Tournament” if not for State Player of the Year! Two teams who have had much administrative/alumni snafu’s going on though Punahou has toned down a bit from before. You were able to persevere through the distractions to get into the title game. Congratulations! The memories will never be forgotten by the players!

  13. anywaaaays!! February 17, 2018 5:34 pm

    Punahou recruits more than the university of hawaii. when you transform high school athletics from “play for your community” to “pay to play,” this is what you get. as far as i’m concerned, all ILH state championships should have a HUGE asterisk next to them. RRFL!

  14. Red Raider Alumni February 17, 2018 6:22 pm

    Congrats Punahou…Well executed game…Good job Red Raiders …Wishing these young men ,great success in life…Go Bog Red…

  15. Local fan February 17, 2018 6:40 pm

    Geez Kahuku fans!!! Enough about the ILH recruiting already and “play for your community”. All students that go to an ILH school have to come from somewhere. And if Kahuku was all about community, then all of their athletes should stay home and play for UH which is the “community” we all live in. Shaddup already and just support all local athletes. Root for your school and congratulate the winners.

  16. Coach C February 18, 2018 11:04 am

    Lots of trolls here. My question is will St.Francis and Damien go to D1? Cmon, most polls got St.Francis above ALL OIA and Outer island D1 teams.

  17. Coach C February 18, 2018 11:13 am

    I’m just wondering? Where do the Kahuku recruits get housed. Do they have dorms? Do they fly back on weekends? Is Kahuku academics so great that they flock there? What bring these kids there? Maybe FAMILY? If a kid goes to a public school and there is no $$$ incentive, that’s called transfer. There is no value for the kid. When a kid is approached from a school and a 15-18k tuition is offered for his athletic services, that’s recruiting. Power to that kid and the family and yes it’s a good move and bring’s prestige to that private school.

  18. JetWavy February 18, 2018 11:32 am

    @Coach C

    But when a team from the league that doesn’t offer tuition/aid beats the team that can, then people like investigations lol. I remember last season, the Punahou coach after losing the title game was talking about “we’re winners we did it the right way”. Ok, coach.

  19. Just the truth February 18, 2018 11:32 am

    The only way St. Francis will move up to D1 is if all the Division 1 teams band together and not play them in the pre season. What advantage would it be to play a Division 2 team, that thrives off of beating Division 1 teams, with the help of the media supersizing their accomplishments?? None! If you win, you were supposed to. If you lose, the basketball community and the media make a huge deal out of that situation. There was a point that every team played in the same division! St. Francis is a small school, but so is Maryknoll, Damien, Mid Pac, etc. etc. etc…..

    Their coach even said he’d only move up if he got a few players above a certain height level….huh? what team in Hawaii has that luxury? You have a kid from Serbia, go get more…

    What would their schedule be like if no Division 1 team would play them?? They are so competitive, that I believe that would make them consider moving up. Try it, see what happens. You can’t get ranked in the D1 polls without beating D1 teams. They would get no recognition playing only D2 teams. It doesn’t matter what they accomplish at the D2 level, the only people that will take them seriously is the D2 community and the media in Hawaii.

    Please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying. There are many teams that have their place and should be in D2. This is NOT one of them. If you’re allowed to recruit, have all access to the gym at all hours of the day (per player interviews), and have been beating D1 teams, but choose to stay at the D2 level, you’re a sandbag. And, college coaches know it.

    I think their top scorer is a hell of a player. He works hard. The media makes it seem as if no one else is working as hard as him, they are absolutely off their rockers….Don’t forget that his dad is on the staff, he takes 25-35 shots per game, and plays the whole game. He didn’t come out of the championship game, even up by 25+ so that he could up his stats. Come on, what kid wouldn’t flourish in that environment? But, unless you do that day in and day out in the top division in your state, there will always be questions.

  20. JetWavy February 18, 2018 2:28 pm

    @ Just The Truth


  21. Last Samurai February 19, 2018 6:39 am

    Eh, if St Francis and Coach Durant like stay in D2, let em. They can continue to be the big fish in the little pond. The attention, prestige, limelight, focuses on the D1. Up to the ILH how they like deal with that. Kind of like Pearl City in Football, should be D1 but they choose to stay D2, the OIA let em. Now Iolani is a different story, they are successful because of their coaching. If you look at their lineup, they don’t have the size & numbers of their ILH D1 counterparts, D2 yes but not D1. Anyways, going back to St. Francis, Sol Batoon started it off and were able to build that program to where it is today, yes, recruiting but just like what the other ILH schools. More power to them.

  22. TooMeke February 19, 2018 8:01 am

    Congrats to Puns! And great season Big Red! Thank you!

  23. anywaaaays!! February 19, 2018 12:40 pm

    coach c is right. there needs to be a massive investigation with Pay for Play and the ILH cover up that runs at the highest levels of the state and the media. The ILH Agenda really screwed it up when they overplayed their hand and bought off the refs to clearly tilt the football state championship game to saint lulu’s favor.

    Despite the massive cover up and the media black out on this issue, everyone in the Kahuku community knows what’s going on. It’s disgusting to see what high school sports has turned into now that the ILH treats sports as money and prestige makers and they view the kids as just chips to use for more money. They don’t care if they break up communities and families by creating mercenary teams. That’s the me first attitude of the ILH.


  24. Coach C February 20, 2018 12:22 pm

    #23.@nnnnyway, shaddup. Nobody talking about football on a basketball thread. Couple questionabe officiating but it happens.

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