With their minds on a fallen teammate, Tati Burciaga-Reyes found her mark to lift the Punahou Buffanblu.
The junior splashed a corner 3 with 1.2 seconds left to give Punahou a scintillating 41-39 win over Kahuku on Saturday afternoon at the Matsumoto Law Group Black & Gold Classic. She finished with 12 points to lead the Buffanblu, who went 3-1 in the tourney. Their other wins were over Lahainaluna and host McKinley.
“We drew up a play. We kind of ran it, but it was mostly just a feel for our team,” said Burciaga-Reyes, who had missed an earlier trey. “I’ve been waiting for that shot this whole tournament.”
The game went back and forth from the opening tip in front of the largest crowd of the four-day tournament at McKinley Student Council Gymnasium. Leiah Naeata of Kahuku turned in one of the best single-game performances of the week. The talented point guard played center on defense, dealing out strong outlet passes, creating on offense from the perimeter, and posting up on any Punahou defender.
Punahou brought wave after wave of fresh players. Coach Gary Pacarro and his team then saw guard Heaven Hense-Dorroli go down after taking a shot in the key. There was no contact, but she clutched her left knee.
“The kids are going to get together and go see her in the hospital,” Pacarro said after the game.
The Buffanblu didn’t lose their resolve.
“We’ve been waiting this whole year to get something going, to get our chemistry going. We’re just looking forward to better games,” Burciaga-Reyes said. “Everyone knows their place.”
Punahou’s fullcourt pressure and uptempo offense are no surprise under Pacarro. He and his family have coached at this hectic pace for a half-century. It’s halfcourt offense and defense that stood out in this win over Kahuku. Naeata got hard-earned points, but long-range gunner Maya Claytor hardly got a clean look from the arc.
“Coach said defense wins games and we’re trying to capitalize on a lot of things this year,” Burciaga-Reyes said. “Preseason, we’re doing a lot. A lot of us get at each other at practice, and that’s what our coaches want.”