Buffanblu ready to grow through ‘growing pains’

Punahou's Tamalani Fonoti looked for her shot as she was guarded by Maryknoll's Bella Cravens on Tuesday. Photo by Darryl Oumi/Special to the Star-Advertiser.

It’s a remarkable feat, really, that the Punahou Buffanblu won seven of their eight nonconference games.

There’s a correlation, some say, between scoring margin and the long-term success of a team. Punahou, with its young roster, eked out some close victories by sheer grit. Three of their seven wins were by margins of 14 points or more. But in games decided by nine points or less, Punahou was 4-0, including a two-point win over Kalani and a one-point thriller over Kaiser. The average margin in those eight preseason games: a modest, but solid 9.4 points.

Winning close games might seem like a non-plus to longtime Buffanblu fans who were treated to four state titles — three with Shawna-Lei Kuehu as their leading scorer and rebounder — over an eight-year span under former coach Mike Taylor. But the current Buffanblu are climbing back up the mountain, where Maryknoll is at the peak with three ILH titles n a row.

Punahou’s near-perfect run through preseason wasn’t lucky. The other key ingredient: consistent composure from Kuehu, their first-year head coach. It’s not common to see an athlete who was so tremendous in any sport at any level become a coach and stay in coaching very long. Kuehu, a three-time player of the year, former UH Rainbow Wahine standout, brings a lot of experience from a career in the game.

That can take Punahou quite far. The Buffanblu were patient offensively, and with Tanisha Elbourne out with an injury, they were quite willing to be methodical and make No. 1 Maryknoll work defensively.

That blueprint did Punahou good in preseason. It will serve them well against the rest of the ILH, probably, but against a long, quick, rangy Maryknoll defense, it was a rough night. The Spartans racked up 10 steals en route to a 56-25 win at Hemmeter Fieldhouse.

It was more about Maryknoll’s length and savvy on defense than anything the Buffanblu did glaringly wrong. It was, as Kuehu said, “a lesson learned” for her team.

“Our mistakes are correctible. It’s the (defensive) pressure and we’ve got to make it harder at practice,” she said. “It’s part of the growing pains. No one likes to lose like that on their home court.”

To be sure, Punahou, ranked No. 6 in the Star-Advertiser Girls Basketball Top 10, won’t be the last ranked team to lose handily to Maryknoll, a team that finished second in the state the past two seasons. The Spartans are loaded with senior talent. There’s so much ability that their reserves are equally capable of starting.

Kodee Viena scored 13 points off the bench. Kamalu Kamakawiwo‘ole had 11, These two came off the bench for Chico Furtado. Starting point guard Rhianne Omori finished with 11 points. Moe Notoa and center Isabella Cravens had eight each. Cravens had 11 rebounds in her duel with Punahou’s 6-foot-4 freshman, Tama Fonoti, who had eight boards.

Notoa added seven boards and a block, showing a lot of energy and activity on both ends of the floor. Maryknoll shot 46 percent from the field (23-for-50), including 5-for-16 from the 3-point line (31 percent). The Spartans’ rugged man-to-man defense limited Punahou to 26-percent field-goal shooting (9-for-34).

Punahou’s youth and, perhaps, some jitters showed in their league debut. The Buffanblu shot 7-for-26 at the free throw line — 27 percent.

“I don’t know about this disparity where we shoot only four free throws and they have more than 20,” Furtado said. “If they hit some of those free throws, it might be a totally different game.”

But they didn’t and it wasn’t. It’s just more of what the ILH does every year, providing much of the best basketball (or volleyball or softball or soccer or baseball) in the state in a very compact, unforgiving ecosystem. It’s an evolve-or-die scenario week to week, and sometimes the teams that take a big loss or two early are the fastest to grow. Punahou seems to fit that mold, especially with Fonoti — who finished with a solid 11 points and eight rebounds — and guards like freshman Melody Lum (seven points).

The 14 turnovers? Most of those came on careless or rushed decisions, and the savvy Spartans were opportunistic. It is exactly the kind of experience that forces ILH teams into improve, to evolve.

“Maryknoll has a lot of D-I caliber players and they’re well-coached. He has some special players on that team,” Kuehu said. “If we’re going to get to where they are, we’ve got to do a lot of work.”

There is one stat line that is hard to ignore. Punahou grabbed nine offensive rebounds. Maryknoll barely won the battle of the boards, 24-22.

Lum, a blur-quick guard, had plenty of highlights in preseason. Against Maryknoll, she scored all seven of her points before halftime, but was 0-for-4 and scoreless after the break.

“We were just scared and nervous against the No. 1 team,” said Lum, who attacked the rim with success in the first half. “A lot of people say we’re young, but it’s no excuse.”

Fonoti went head to head with Cravens, a 6-1 senior.

“She pushed me, especially mentally. To be honest, it helps me to know what it’s like to play the best of the best,” Fonoti said.

The maturity of Punahou’s freshmen — there are four in all on the roster — is at a high level, and so is their work ethic. Time, as they say, is on their side.

All six ILH teams are ranked in the Top 10, and a seventh squad, Division II St. Francis, is also ranked. Punahou’s next game is on Saturday against No. 2 Kamehameha. Tip-off is 6:30 p.m. at Hemmeter Fieldhouse.


  1. The Winged O December 6, 2017 8:45 am

    Kuehu isnnitnresdy to be the head. It’s like watching a Manoa league game. Barely beat over matched teams such as Radford and Kalani. Got hammered by St. Francis & Maryknoll.

    Defense doesn’t do simple things like play he’ll defense or close out withthe correct foot. Last night there are girls with the back of their head facing the ball. This is basketball 101.

    Punahou always plays the same way. Minimal adjustments if any. Archaic offense. Some parents told me the team plays selfish basketball. Very low rate of assists per game. Most kids looking to get their own.

    Lot of yelling by coaching but hardly any instruction going on. Punahou could play St. Francis or Maryknoll one hundred times and never win. So much talent on Punahou. What happened to the days when Coach Taylor was there. This program is in shambles.

    The best is Uncle Puni in the stands barking instructions to Kuehu who listens. Maybe the coaching staff will come out in team vests to pay respect to Uncle Puni.

  2. ahinalu December 6, 2017 3:50 pm

    Coach Ane looks like you just can’t make everyone Happy.

  3. Kai Mitchell December 6, 2017 8:51 pm

    Response to the “The Winged O”

    Someone plucked your feathers (because you fell from the sky and hit your head pretty hard) due to the fact that you have no understanding of the game of basketball…let alone any team sport. First let me say that any individual in the stands regardless of who they are, who they are related to, or what they have done in their life has NOTHING IMPORTANT TO SAY to the coaching staff from Punahou or any other team. They should keep their mouths shut.

    This includes “Uncle Puni.” This is embarrassing. A grown man “acting like a fool” thinking he is someone of experience and knowledge that people should even pay attention to. He is Hawaii’s version of Lavar Ball.

    I love to see and hear the ignorance that comes from individuals like yourself. The Peanut Gallery always believe they are better than those they have tons of comments about. Instead of talking like you know why don’t you get a coaching job and try to beat the team that you have no confidence in. I can’t wait to see you not even get off the ground.

    Good luck trying to prove me wrong. Look in the mirror before you point fingers.

  4. RR4Life LIving the LIe December 6, 2017 10:04 pm

    Uncle Puni is a clown. He think he know what he talking about but his fat ass never do nothing in his day. Winged Butthole should shut up

  5. Dat Bigga Jigga December 6, 2017 10:08 pm

    Cousin I saw several games. The kid is not ready to coach. And who is Uncle Puni? Is he famous?

    When was the last time Punahou went lose to STF by 18? When was the last time Punahou could barely beat Radford?

    Vs. STF they do not have an advantage inside and they keep going to it. Pun’s guards couldn’t contain STF’s guards on the perimeter but they wanna play tight and get beat off the dribble.

    Kai Mitchell you must be one of the coaches pretending to be someone else. But we all know coach is one rookie and makes numerous rookie mistakes. Good coaches don’t lose by 30+ with that kind of talent.

  6. Poor Puns December 7, 2017 9:42 am

    Inexperience, ignorance, and unwarranted overconfidence is contributing to an embarrassing situation. This Punahou squad has depth that has not even been discovered yet, well by their coach anyway. Everyone else knows. The same coaching and player mistakes are being allowed to be made over and over. There are no adjustments, the same players that can’t play being subbed in and out. These articles about the wins and talent are exaggerated. Scores and skills are low, but mistakes and bad decisions are high. The games are hard to watch. Single to barely double digit scores, high turnovers, and no sight of change. If the same line up and game plan continue, Punahou should prepare to lose to every team in the ILH.

  7. Kai Mitchell December 7, 2017 10:20 am

    Response to “Dat Bigga Jigga”

    This is what makes couch coaches like you important…only to yourselves. You think you know what you are talking about yet your RESUME (or the lack of) says NOTHING. So you talk, talk, and do more talking to make yourself sound important to yourself and those like you. Why don’t each and everyone of you go to a Punahou game and talk BASKETBALL with Punahou’s coach. I bet her basketball I.Q. is not only far more advanced but would definitely surprise you. Along side with put you in your place.

    Every other individual like “Poor Puns” (ridiculous name…that is so original) and “Dat Bigga Jigga” (much more offensive and ridiculous) all point to talent when it comes to players on the team. So why is it then their talent is not being seen when they are on the court. Coaches COACH and players PLAY and yet none of them have shown any caliber of play that separates them from the rest. Where is their breakout moments? Where is their ALL STAR clips?

    Punahou parents who are on here trying to knock the coach because your child is on the bench or not getting playing time and/or former coaches and athletes who could not make the cut…you should be all embarrassed with yourselves. The Punahou coach is not the problem it is the parents and community members that are the problem. STOP being the LaVar Ball of Hawaii and sit and enjoy the sport.

    By-the-way “Dat Bigga Jigga”, I am know way a coach for basketball but I am a fan of youth sports. Like said earlier, what does your resume say…probably nothing.

  8. THIS IS RIDICULOUS December 7, 2017 1:03 pm

    SHAME ON YOU ALL! How sad that Punahou parents have a reputation for complaining and whining! The comments here and on previous articles confirms to everyone just how spoiled, self righteous and demanding Punahou parents are! How petty, immature and small minded you are to be attacking coaches, AD’s, administrations, team moms, other parents and even a parent’s choice of attire!

    Most coaches coach for the love of the game, the players and the school. They never claim to be perfect. No coach is! But they all try their best! All come with different experiences, knowledge and styles of coaching. Let the coaches coach. If you don’t like their style of coaching, LEAVE.
    You have the choice not to play for them. No one is forcing your child to play for the program. Go play on another team. Or even for another school. Then the rest of us don’t need to listen to your whining!

    The AD’s and administration have every right to hire whomever they choose as a coach! They try their best to make decisions best for the program, players and school. No AD or administration would purposely choose a bad coach. If you don’t like their decisions, too bad. Let’s see you walk in their shoes and deal with all they have to deal with (parents like you)! I feel sorry for them as they are always the scapegoats when things aren’t going the way everyone wants.

    Team parents volunteer to help. If you don’t like what the team parent is doing, why don’t YOU volunteer to help? How sad that even a team parent got dragged into the childish complaining! (Yes, I’m referring to another thread of comments but know it’s the same people commenting on all the articles)

    A parent’s choice of attire should not even be brought up in a blog written by parents! Really?! Are we in grade school? How immature and petty can you get? And to mention a name? Whoever Uncle Puni is, I hope he never reads these comments! You may not agree with his comments, coaching style or attire choices but he shouldn’t be personally attacked in that way. Especially the name calling, that is way out of line and uncalled for!

    I would be ashamed if I were you all! Criticism, judgement and negativity fill the comments on all these articles. Is that what you teach your kids? To complain and whine when things don’t go your way? Our kids are easily influenced by our attitudes and actions. Set a better example for them.

    Just because you pay tuition doesn’t mean you have a say in the decisions that the administration and coaches make. Punahou has a long waiting list of parents who are willing to pay the same tuition without criticism. Again, if you’re so unhappy, take yourself out of the situation and go to another school. No one is forcing you to stay.

  9. Buff that’s blue December 7, 2017 1:04 pm

    We need the spirit behind these comments in our gyms behind our community and youth. There is great talent on both sides and ALWAYS room for improvement. Lack of experience is clear and no adjustments were made. And it is frustrating to watch the same mistakes being made. The true talent of the players will not
    Be seen if they continue not to play as a TEAM and only rely on the inside. The Coaches set the template of how players…PLAY. Turn overs and missed opportunities set them up to fail. The article is titled perfectly if they could get the right coaching combo and supporting cast Punahou could return to its former glory. Talent is there and sadly Freshmen heavy combined with a Rookie coach set up the outcome of the season opener. They went against the senior heavy consecutive state runner ups- truthfully we were shocked it wasn’t a bigger score gap. I hope they prepare to WIN and Fight to rather than prepare to Lose and go in with that attitude. And hopefully we will have some Punahou basketball girls featured at signing day and more than just 2 statewide. Not a coach just a bench warmers parent sad to see the extent and negativity of the comments. And Puni getting dragged into a game he didn’t even say a word at. Speaking on highlights-did any Maryknoll girls get D1 offers or truly only Kamehameha..? Would be great for our Hawai‘i youth to get some recognition no matter what school.

  10. Just a parent from Maryknoll December 7, 2017 1:13 pm

    Puni is a coach and been for years on the club side and apart of the Varsity Men’s Maryknoll Basketball Coaching staff also for years. Not sure why he is brought up on the girls side by sitting commentless in the stands-but maybe he was hungry for peanuts. (Smh) The Maryknoll girls better win took us 4 years and hopeful for a trophy. I heard nothing about offers for our team just about that Girl from Kamehameha.

  11. Richard Olsen December 7, 2017 3:46 pm

    This is Crazy! I sat next to “Uncle PUNI” the whole game and he wasn’t yelling or telling anything to punahou coach . We sat under the score board by the entrance, so I guess puni and coach shauna are telepathically connected. What’s funny is everyone hides behind fake names on this site. Both PUNI and Coach Shauna should be applauded as these coaches do take time away from their regular lives to try and help these kids not only succeed in sports but in life. Yeah they get paid but it ain’t enough to live on. No one is perfect and coaches are learning everyday too. Be a fan and support. I hope everyone with criticism can take time out their lives and try help our youth to develop into well rounded adults through sports or different avenues. Bickering and acting ignorant is not the way to be role models.
    Stop hiding behind fake names if you guys have something to say! Stand behind your comments!

  12. Dat Bigga Jigga December 7, 2017 4:24 pm

    Kai Mitchell is a coach for Punahou. He is pretending. No one with so little invested would be so angry. Das kinda whack. Coaches making up fake names to pump themselves up and get angry at bloggers. Dat’s straight classic!

  13. Dat Bigga Jigga December 7, 2017 4:32 pm

    Maryknoll got 2 players with offers. Cravens and Milne.

    Sometimes I think I am watching one KBA game. I will wait for Kai Mitchell, aka Punahou Basketball coach to reply with hatred and anger. Last time I looked, this was one blog to talk sports.

    I notice no one writes back that the lack of adjustments are not made, girls don’t pay fundamental defense seeing man/ball, and not locating mismatches. Instead da clown like get mad. How about tell us what we saying is wrong since you act so smart.

  14. Kai Mitchell December 7, 2017 5:15 pm

    Response to “Dat Bigga Jigga”

    Again, talking like you know. I am not a coach with Punahou. I am a product of Kalaepōhaku. My point to all you negative commenters is to take a look at yourself and see if you can even do any better. If you can’t or even if you can you can should let the coaches COACH and the players PLAY.

    By-the-way “Dat Bigga Jigga” we are still waiting on your RESUME. What have you done to give you any right to make any comment that is worth listening to.

  15. Dat Bigga Jigga December 7, 2017 5:23 pm

    Sure Kai Mitchell. And I am the President of the US since you know he loves social media and tweeting. Man anyone can make up stuff. No one not coaching would be so offensive. I get it if people was using names of kids, then maybe one parent or family member would get upset. but that’s not happening here.

    Instead we only talking and your panties all riding up on ya. And you all irraz and mad. So that tells everyone you one coach. It’s okay. But coach, shouldn’t you be watching film or watching youtube videos to help you? Spending your off time on this blog is kinda one waste of time when you just lost to Maryknoll by over 30. To me you should be improving your coaching by reading books, watching videos, talking to other coaches. Not writing on this blog. Geez auwe.

  16. Dat Bigga Jigga December 7, 2017 5:30 pm

    TO Kai Mitchell:

    1978–1979 Rochester (asst.)
    1979–1980 Loyola (MD) (asst.)
    1980–1981 St. Bonaventure (asst.)
    1981–1987 Notre Dame (asst.)
    1987–1992 St. Francis (PA)
    1992–2001 St. Bonaventure HC
    2001–2012 Rhode Island HC
    2012–2016 Canisius HC

  17. Sports fanatic December 7, 2017 8:30 pm

    Jim Baron in da house!

  18. Kai Mitchell December 8, 2017 1:10 pm

    Response to “Dat Bigga Jigga”

    You are so caught up on this “coach” thing. Where have you read that I made claim to defending plays that were made, players that were substituted in or out, or game plans or strategies…NO where has any of that has been made.

    Also, was that ʻresume” suppose to mean something. The game has changed and QUALITY sure outweighs quantity of coaching. As I stated earlier, I invite you and the rest of you who wish you could do a better job to talk basketball with Coach Shawna at Punahou. You all seem to have a better grasp on the game of basketball. Better yet, why don’t you become a basketball coach at an opposing school and prove your worth. I don’t see or hear anyone knocking at your door!

    I am on here as a fan of youth sports, and it is jokers like you, yeah you “Dat Bigga Jigga” and others that make me want to say something in defense of those that have no time listening to your ridiculous nonsense. Look in the mirror and tell yourself this, am I part of the SOLUTION or part of the PROBLEM!

  19. Kai Mitchell December 8, 2017 1:15 pm

    Response to “Dat Bigga Jigga”

    If you claim to be who you wish your were, then maybe working on your language skills would help. By-the-way, keep the Hawaiian language for those that truly know the meaning of the Hawaiian language.

    On-top-of-that, there are many youtube videos you can access for you to learn about common etiquette and maybe some commonsense. Along side with proper grammar.

    How is that for getting of topic!!!

  20. Dat Bigga Jigga December 8, 2017 2:59 pm

    Kai please be real. No one who is just a fan of youth sports would be so offended by what anyone is writing.

    If you was so passionate about being an supporter of youth sports how come you are not writing on the other girls basketball and boys basketball posts where people are questioning the quality of coaching. You only on this one.

    So keep telling anyone and everyone you not one Punahou coach. I don’t believe you.

    I hope you do better in your next game. The parents and alum getting restless. You need to start doing a better job buddy.

  21. Dat Bigga Jigga December 8, 2017 3:00 pm

    And this guy Kai Mitchell is giving writing and grammar lessons? WOW.

  22. Kai Mitchell December 9, 2017 2:57 pm

    “Dat Bigga Jigga” is still not accepting the fact that he can not compare to the Punahou coaching staff. Give it up…sore loser!

    Even if I was a coach for Punahou, the one thing I know is you are not the coach for the team you have no faith in.

  23. Dat Bigga Jigga December 9, 2017 6:12 pm

    Hi coach. I hope you were scouting today. You team isn’t doing that well. I don’t know if Coach Ane will extend your contract and bring you back next year as the assistant/camera guy. I love ho you are on the bench all the time yelling but none of the kids are listening to you.

    Hopefully you can get your players ready for the next game. I will give you some pointers.

    1) When you close out against right handed players, it’s best to close out left foot high so you can steer them to their weak hand.

    2) It’s always best to see man and ball and not have your back of your head to the person with the ball. It’s hard to play help defense that way.

    3) When your team cannot match up on the perimeter against St. Francis’ guards, it’s best to go zone, change personnel, of play looser on the perimeter.

    4) When playing Maryknoll who has better athletes, it’s best to slow the game down and lower the total amount of possession in the game than try to run with them, thus increasing the amount of possessions which contributed to your 30+ point loss.

    5) It’s hard to run your flex when your girls do not know the proper technique to screen.

    You do not have to pay me for this free advice that every coach in Hawaii can see except you. You are very welcome.

    I hope Kuehu allows you to do more in practice this week.

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