It was another WOW night by Punahou.
I just saw another excellent team get neutralized by No. 1 Punahou. This time it was No. 5 HBA that got swept 25-20, 25-15 on the opening day of the Hawaii Invitational at ‘Iolani School. Last week, I saw No. 2 Kamehameha get swept by PUN. The Buffanblu have outstanding back-row defense — libero Kelsey Yogi was relentless — and their passing was superb. But it’s Micah Ma‘a (15 kills, .700 hitting percentage plus four aces) who is playing out of his mind. His swing from nearly 12 feet up at the back-row line is UNDEFENDABLE. Just hearing crowds ooh and aah when he gets up that high and blast Wilsons with authority is something I haven’t seen and heard in a long time.
The baseball analogy would be this: Larry “Tui” Tuileta and Evan Enriques were more like Greg Maddux in his prime. A lot of patience, keeping the play alive, waiting for that clean delivery, slicing defenses with accuracy.
Ma‘a is bringing heat like Randy Johnson — without the wildness. Ma‘a had just one hitting error in 20 swings, plus four aces. Worth the price of admission. Enjoy him while you can.
Punahou got four aces in the second set — two by Ma‘a, one by libero Kelsey Yogi and one by Gruebner — to seize control. Kills by Kainoa Quindica and Ma‘a, and an Kelsey Yogi’s ace, sparked a 13-5 run. That turned a 5-4 lead into a 18-9 runaway. HBA got no closer than nine points after that.
Punahou coach Rick Tune was satisfied with his team’s execution and ability to follow direction.
“We talked about having a high level of communication. Our guys were high-level problem solvers on the court,” he said.
Ma‘a continues to be impressed by the mental toughness of his younger teammates.
“Our young guys are way more mature than their age,” said Ma‘a, who signed to play for UCLA next season.
Rohan Watamull tallied five kills, while Todd Gruebner had a solid all-around effort with four kills, eight assists and two blocks. Ethan Lewis and Quindica chipped in three kills each, and Stanley had a match-high 18 dimes. Punahou hit .451 against a tall front line (6-4 Isaac Liva, 6-4 Caleb Fisher, 6-2 Brett Miller) and had three blocks.
Liva had a team-high seven kills for HBA. Brett Miller and Nicholas Caballes each had four kills for HBA. B.J. Hosaka dished 14 assists as HBA hit .255.
Game story in tomorrow’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser.