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Punahou turns to X factor
PUKALANI, Maui » Dealing with the Punahou Buffanblu is almost unfair.
Just when the Moanalua Menehunes caught fire and had the top-seeded Buffanblu on the ropes, Punahou turned to its X factor, Aneli Cubi-Otineru.
Defending state champion Punahou, ranked No. 1 in the Star-Bulletin Top 10 all season long, improved to 18-0.
"They dig so many balls, they'll always stay in a match," Punahou coach Scott Rigg said. "It's two years now that we've had to play two great teams to get into the finals."
Cubi-Otineru came up with timely kills, both with power and finesse, neutralizing Moanalua's momentum again and again.
"It feels good. I had to suck it up," she said of the knee injury.
Moanalua coach Thomas Lake was gratified by his team's effort.
"We gave it a shot. All year, I've been satisfied. The attitude and effort have always been there," he said. "We were ready to stay all night if we had to. The girls should be happy. They gave it a good go."
Oahu Interscholastic Association runner-up Moanalua (14-3), ranked No. 4, faced a determined wall of defense. Danie Hout, facing Punahou's relentless blockers all night, managed six kills, but sophomore Briana Amian took advantage of the openings for 12 kills (.308).
No other Menehune, however, had more than one kill, and that lack of offensive depth eventually proved troublesome.
"It's OK. We did good, and I'm proud of my team," Hout said. "Even though we lost in two sets, I still firmly believe it could've gone either way. We were flat the first two days, but tonight, we were sharp. I hope we proved that we're not just a team that dies out in the end."
The two teams met in a scrimmage two weeks ago, but the difference this time is that Cubi-Otineru played.
In addition to Cubi-Otineru, sophomore Larissa Nordyke pounded eight kills (.300) and had seven of her team's 32 digs. Middle blocker Spenser Rigg added five kills and five digs while anchoring Punahou's defense at the net. Pohai Nuuhiwa had 16 assists and seven digs, while the ever-consistent Liz Kaaihue tallied seven kills and eight digs.
Punahou went to a new look midway through the match with Kaaihue, who is usually at opposite, at setter. The 5-foot-8 sophomore had 12 assists.
"I've seen them do that at the Iolani (preseason) tournament," Lake said. "We let them make runs in the first and second game, but we couldn't cut it closer."
Rigg said it was an experiment of sorts.
"Plan B faltered a little, but 'Neli came in for those kills. We took Pohai out to get three hitters in there. It was kinda risky, but we have flexible kids," he said, referring to multi-skilled players like Kaui Robello, who had three kills and seven digs.
The Buffanblu threatened to make a rout of Game 2, taking an 11-5 lead before Lake called timeout. They extended the lead to 16-7 when Moanalua dug deep and made a remarkable comeback. Amian came up with two roofs of Nordyke and a kill as Moanalua bounced back.
In the second semifinal, Kamehameha made it an all-ILH final by rallying past the Red Raiders in an epic battle.
Kamehameha trailed 20-16 in Game 3, but chipped away and was down just 25-24.
That's when Ane Vea was long on an open look from the left side. That opened the door for the Warriors, who got a a kill from Tehane Kahalehau to take a 26-25 lead.
"That was the complete, biggest adrenaline rush of my life," Kahalehau said. "I knew we'd win."
Moments later, Bekah Torres roofed Lily Latu at the middle, and the Warriors claimed victory.
"She was calling for it all the way, and I was on the middle," said Torres, a 5-11 freshman.
Kamehameha (17-2) proved resilient in a battle of wills with Kahuku, the OIA champion and No. 2 seed. The Warriors, ranked third in the Star-Bulletin Top 10, got 11 kills from Deven Bukoshi and eight from Kahalehau -- the two players on the roster who hail from the host island, Maui.
Leslie Aki dished out 17 assists and Doris Kometani had 16. Chauntelle Maduli tallied seven kills and a team-high 12 digs, while Kristal Tsukano added 11 digs.
Camilla Ah-Hoy led Kahuku (14-2) with 18 kills. Vea finished with 14. Sachi Mamizuka led the defense with 15 digs, while Leeann Mapu had 28 assists.
Kahuku went away from Vea, who had sparked Kahuku's Game 3 run.
"Ane had the hot hand. We should've kept the ball with her," Kahuku coach Mona Ah-Hoy said. "It was just a good game that could've gone any way."
Kamehameha coach Chris Blake felt fortunate.
"We got a couple of lucky breaks, some key digs and the block. We told them, you gotta leave it all on the floor," he said.
Kamehameha-Maui def. Aiea 25-18, 26-24Eleu Novikoff pounded 10 kills as the Warriors posted their first win in state tournament play.
Kamehameha-Maui, coming off a frustrating loss to Kamehameha on Thursday, played with far more precision and aggressiveness last night.
Novikoff, a 5-5 outside hitter, took it upon herself to play her best.
"After the match yesterday, she told me, 'Coach, I'm sorry. I want to play.' She really stepped up today," KS-Maui coach Donald Kealoha said.
Kalani def. Kamehameha-Hawaii 25-15, 25-20The Lady Falcons rebounded from a quarterfinal loss to oust the Warriors, preventing an all-Kamehameha matchup for fifth place.
Tamari Miyashiro laced 13 kills (.611) from everywhere on the floor, and also had 10 digs to lead Kalani (14-4). The senior also had 11 assists.
Hilo def. Waiakea 25-18, 22-25, 26-24In a consolation bracket matchup between crosstown rivals, freshman Kaleinani Kabalis slammed 14 kills and had 10 digs to rally the Lady Vikings.
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