At Punahou, state championships aren’t a given.
They are, as always, the standard. The Buffanblu won their first boys basketball state title in 1970 under Bud Scott and have nine crowns in their trophy case. The most recent was in 2012 under current coach Darren Matsuda, and the Buffanblu have played in the last two state finals.
Kahuku broke through last season with its first state title in the classification era. The Red Raiders won Class A titles in the old small-schools state tourney — ’71 and ’73 under Norman Pule and ’74 under Harry Kahuanui.
In the year 2018, it is Punahou that has been together a bit longer. The current roster has been lighting courts on fire since freshman year, losing in last year’s state final to Kahuku 70-55. Punahou returned virtually all of its scoring from that team, including savvy seniors Zayne Chong (22 points, four steals in the semifinal win over Moanalua), Cole Mausolf, Hunter Hosoda and the spark behind their “212 Degrees” fullcourt press, Cole Arceneaux.
There were some voices of concern in the offseason about the arrival of transfers at Kahuku. Some of the questions came from the ILH, including Punahou, but there is no rule against any public or private school accepting age-eligible student-athletes from out of state, let alone another country. Maryknoll had its share a few years back with a student-athlete from Germany. St. Joseph and Hawaii Prep have enrolled student-athletes from Europe over the decades. ‘Iolani is planning to build a dormitory that will house international students.
This season’s arrivals included Tolu Smith, a 6-foot-10 senior from Mississippi. His family opted to move to the North Shore and be near his mother’s side of the family. He had already committed to Western Kentucky where he recently signed. Ruanui Winitana arrived from New Zealand to become a point guard in Coach Brandyn Akana’s uptempo system. The rest of the team, though, are returnees from the championship squad, and that includes ever-improving Marcus Damuni, a rebounding force and blue-collar defender. Sophomores Robbie Sauvao and Lokana Enos have stepped up over the course of the season, becoming versatile players who can hit the open 3.
That’s a key development for Kahuku, which often sees Smith double- and triple-teamed on the block. The Red Raiders are shooting 40 percent from the arc in the state tournament: 7-for-18 against Kamehameha-Hawaii and 3-for-7 against top-seeded Maryknoll.
Skinny: The Buffanblu edged Kahuku 50-48 during the St. Francis Holiday Hoops Classic in December. Though Punahou got a hotly-disputed bucket at the buzzer — photos show the clock at :00 as the ball was still in the hand of the shooter (Arceneaux) — Smith took the fall for that loss. He says he had 10 turnovers in the game and that was the reason Kahuku lost to the then-No. 1 Buffanblu.
Punahou went on to lose the ILH championship game to Maryknoll and Kahuku went on to lose the OIA final to Kalaheo. Both teams emerged better for it.
X-factor: The Red Raiders will be fast or slow, ready to play at any speed, but they haven’t seen fullcourt pressure like Punahou’s since… the last time they played Punahou. If Kahuku can keep its turnover count at 10 or less, that would be a surprise. A count of 20 or more would fuel a Punahou victory. Smith, who played all 32 minutes against Maryknoll, will be needed as a vital part of Kahuku’s press breaker.
Punahou’s close 75-69 win over Moanalua required some starters to play more minutes than expected, especially after taking an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter. The Buffanblu shot 10-for-20 at the foul line in the final 2-plus minutes, a sign of fatigue.
Both unseeded teams have played three games over four days. Fatigue may become the ultimate factor tonight.
|1||Feb. 12||Konawaena vs. Moanalua||Moan, 62-52||Konawaena|
|2||Feb. 12||Kahuku vs. Kailua||Kah, 54-38||Kahuku|
|3||Feb. 12||Punahou vs. McKinley||Pun, 59-39||Punahou|
|4||Feb. 12||KS-Maui vs. Kapolei||Kapo, 49-34||KS-Maui|
|5||Feb. 14||(1) Maryknoll vs. Kapolei||Mryk, 57-42||Moanalua|
|6||Feb. 14||(4) KS-Hawaii vs. Kahuku||Kah, 62-37||Moanalua|
|7||Feb. 14||(2) Kalaheo vs. Moanalua||Moan, 52-50||McKinley|
|8||Feb. 14||(3) Lahainaluna vs. Punahou||Pun, 50-40||McKinley|
|9*||Feb. 15||Kapolei vs. KS-Hawaii||Kapo, 57-54||Stan Sheriff Center|
|10*||Feb. 15||Kalaheo vs. Lahainaluna||Lah, 61-50||Stan Sheriff Center|
|11||Feb. 15||Maryknoll vs. Kahuku||Kah, 49-43||Stan Sheriff Center|
|12||Feb. 15||Moanalua vs. Punahou||Pun, 75-69||Stan Sheriff Center|
|13*||Feb. 16||Kapolei vs. Lahainaluna||Lah, 57-55||Stan Sheriff Center|
|14*||Feb. 16||Maryknoll vs. Moanalua||Mryk, 67-52||Stan Sheriff Center|
|15||Feb. 16||Kahuku vs. Punahou||Pun, 64-37||Stan Sheriff Center|
|* — consolation|