For the first time since the early 1970’s, ‘Iolani has repeated as ILH boys water polo champions.
The Raiders defeated Punahou 9-7 in the winner-take-all final on Monday after the Buffanblu forced a tiebreaker with a win in the postseason tournament.
Danny Leong, Hunter Manson, Scotty Wo and Aaron Yonamine all scored two goals each with Trevyn Maruyama adding one. Yuki Saito scored a game-high four goals for the Buffanblu with Aukai Lilikeas adding two and Sam Sutherland scoring once for Punahou.
The Raiders hadn’t won consecutive ILH titles in boys water polo since 1971 and 1972. It was their sixth ILH title in the last 42 seasons since longtime Punahou coach Ken Smith began his tenure.
“The boys work really hard they buy into the stuff I’m trying to teach them,” ‘Iolani coach Ian Kusao said.
Kusao is 2-for-2 as ‘Iolani coach since taking over in 2013.
The Raiders survived a crushing injury to their goalie when senior Riley Bloom broke his elbow during the senior trip two weeks ago.
Kusao used another senior in goal in the postseason tournament but decided for Monday’s championship to bring up freshman Reyn Saoit, who was the goalie on the intermediate team.
Saoit’s first varsity start was the championship game and he did enough to help his team pull out the win.
“I told the boys to win a championship you have to sometimes be both good and lucky a little bit,” Kusao said. “I thought we had to have someone who had played goalie for that game so I brought him up.”
‘Iolani finished the season 10-2 with both losses coming against Punahou. The Buffanblu won the first game back in September, 13-6 at ‘Iolani. The Raiders bounced back with a 6-3 win over the Buffanblu on Oct. 1 and won the regular season title in an 11-9 win on Oct. 14.
Punahou evened the season series at 2-2 with a 12-9 win last Thursday setting up Monday’s winner-take-all match at ‘Iolani.
With a freshman in goal, Kusao decided to try and ramp up the pressure from the outset and it worked. The Raiders took a 4-0 lead and held it the entire way. The closest Punahou got was within a goal at 4-3.
“We changed up our defense and pressured a lot more compared to early in the season when we played a lot of zone,” Kusao said. “It’s funny because we lost that first game 13-6 and got kind of killed at ‘Iolani. We changed some things and fortunately it worked out well for us.”