After Punahou’s 25-17, 25-22, 25-11 sweep of ‘Iolani at Mid-Pacific’s Mills gym on Thursday night, the Buffanblu (13-0) clinched their 15th straight ILH title and remain undefeated for the season, having lost only one set the entire year.
Coach Rick Tune said he isn’t keeping count of the two prodigious steaks that his team is currently on. He just wants his guys to keep improving each time they step on the court.
“We just take it one match at a time. Credit to these boys. They’ve bought in, they competed all season,” Tune said. “We have a great senior class, a lot of leadership comes from that class and they deserve all the hard work that they’ve put into this game. They deserve to go out ILH champions and hopefully state champions as well.”
‘Iolani (10-4) needed to win on Thursday to force a playoff, but ran into a buzzsaw in Punahou’s offense that included 15 kills apiece from seniors Ryan Wilcox and Alaka’i Todd. Tune attributed much of the team’s success on that end to setter Jameson McKibbin, a Southern California signee, who spread the wealth to Wilcox and Todd.
“They carried us tonight. I thought Jameson did a really nice job getting the middle involved when he needed to. But Ryan and Alaka’i kept the ball in play and gave us chances tonight,” Tune said. “They gave us chances to play defense and we’re a pretty good defensive team when we put our mind to it.”
Wilcox, the reigning Star-Advertiser player of the year, asserted himself early with five kills in the first set, which ended with an emphatic kill by Todd.
“I was just trying to have fun, honestly. We potentially only have a few games left with this team and I was just feeling good tonight,” said Wilcox, who signed with UC Santa Barbara in November.
‘Iolani fell behind in the second set but rallied back to force a 22-all tie, prompting a timeout from Tune. Wilcox then ended the set with consecutive kills and a service ace.
“We’re really trying to emphasize our serve and pass game. I think we did a really good job of not ending our runs with things like service errors or careless hitting errors,” Wilcox said. “We did a good job of stringing together points in bunches so I think that was a big help for us.”
The third set was a breeze for Punahou. An early 13-5 lead forced an ‘Iolani timeout, but the break didn’t deter the Buffanblu from finishing the match on a 12-6 run.
Both teams now shift their attention to the HHSAA championships, which start on April 30. The Raiders had already clinched a berth in the state championships when they swept Kamehameha on Tuesday.
Punahou has won 11 of the past 13 state titles and six in a row.
“That says a lot about the great coaching staff we have here, the great atmosphere. Just the tradition of trying to strive for excellence,” Wilcox said. “We always have a bunch of great talent coming through every year. It’s huge feat and we don’t take it for granted.”