ALL-STATE GIRLS BASKETBALL
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Punahou's Mike Taylor is Star-Bulletin Coach of the Year, and Buffanblu sophomore Shawna-Lei Kuehu is Player of the Year for the second straight time.
She’s still the 1
Punahou sophomore Shawna-Lei Kuehu caps a dominant season with her second Star-Bulletin Player of the Year award
SHE'LL look you in the eye and you will believe.
When Shawna-Lei Kuehu says, moments after a difficult midseason defeat, that a second state championship is all she wants, you believe.
When the Punahou sophomore scores 37 points on 16-for-23 shooting in the state final and says she knows nothing of single-game scoring records, you believe.
Kuehu, the Star-Bulletin Girls Basketball Player of the Year for a second season in a row, smiles easily in the afterglow of another Punahou state crown.
"She's consistent and plays bigger in the bigger games," said Bobby Keanini, whose Roosevelt team was the victim of Kuehu's title-game onslaught. "She's the ultimate force and can take over the game. She has great leadership and all the intangibles. She's just a very, very gifted young lady."
Kuehu remains convincing, still filled with conviction about her goals in the future. "We're not trying to impress anyone. We're just out there to win," said Kuehu, a 5-foot-10 center who was a unanimous selection by 12 coaches and media.
"I knew I had to step up. I had to step up and lead by effort. Coach (Mike Taylor) said when I step up my game, that's when everyone steps up," she said. "A lot of people underestimated us because we lost three key players (to graduation). That's what pushed us, all 15 players going hard in practice. That got us ready for what was gonna come at us."
To give her game maximum focus, she sacrificed surfing -- her other passion -- during the season. After missing three early nonconference contests with an injury, she played in 21 games and posted some eye-popping statistics in a season filled with low scoring totals. Kuehu averaged 19.8 points and 11 rebounds per game. She also had 3.5 steals, 2.1 blocks and 2.2 assists per game. She shot 52 percent from the field (160-for-305) and 71 percent from the foul line (95-for-134).
Her game ramped up in the state tournament, where she averaged 24.7 points per game. She also had 8.3 rebounds, 4.7 steals, 3.7 assists and a whopping five blocks per game. To cap it off, she shot better from the field (54 percent) and the free-throw line (76 percent) as Punahou pulverized its three opponents.
"I wouldn't say it was easy because I thought it was gonna be way harder," she said.
Kuehu amassed 15 double-doubles, including 10 in 11 Interscholastic League of Honolulu games. The ILH is widely regarded as the toughest league in the state.
Despite the hefty numbers and Kuehu's physical dominance on the floor, she didn't quite carry the Buffanblu single-handedly. She racked up big numbers in Punahou's two league losses, and it took some midstream improvisation and adjusting by Taylor, his staff and the Punahou players to transform into an untouchable foe.
Still, the Fab 15 of 2006 includes only one other Buffanblu player, Kuehu's twin, Shaena-Lyn.
Starting this week, the team hits the weight room and practice court for workouts three times per week, all to prepare for the summer league. The Kuehu sisters will be there, and in addition, they'll run on the sand at Ala Moana Beach.
Surfing at Kaisers and Bowls, of course, is back in, at least until the quest for another trophy begins. The Punahou dynasty is alive and well.
Getting defensive: Shawna-Lei Kuehu shared top honors in the All-Defensive team voting with Honokaa's Keisha Kanekoa. Each received 18 points from voters.
Joining them on the unit are Shaena-Lyn Kuehu (16), Tatriana Lorenzo of Kamehameha (13), Elizabeth Abe of Punahou (10) and Brittni Fuller of Radford (10).
The Fab 15
With school, height, year and points earned from the Star-Bulletin panel*
» Sharde Pratt, Kaiser, 5-8, Sr., 20 points
» Sophie Merrifield, Punahou, 5-9, Sr., 18
» Ashley Medcalf, Christian Academy, 5-10, Jr., 17
» Leilani Galdones, Kamehameha-Hawaii, 5-6, Sr., 14
» Courtney Gaddis, La Pietra, 5-9, Jr., 11
» Megan Kamehiro, Kalani, 5-6, Jr., 11
» Jodi Kamemoto, Hawaii Baptist, 5-5, Sr., 11
» Chelsie Sato, McKinley, 5-6, Jr., 11
» Analee Viena Lota, Kamehameha, 5-7, Jr., 10
» Kamia Smith, Radford, 5-6, Sr., 9
» Shannon Miyashiro, Roosevelt, 5-8, Sr. 6
» Jamie Mattos, Kamehameha-Hawaii, 5-5, Sr., 4
» Samantha Saito, Sacred Hearts, 5-3, Sr., 4
» Careena Onosai, Word of Life, 5-10, 3
» Wila Lavea, Honokaa, 5-11, Sr., 2
» Jade Miller, Moanalua, 5-5, Sr., 1
» Tasha Pagdilao, Lahainaluna, 5-3, Sr., 1
» Dianna Zane, Roosevelt, 5-2, So., 1
*Note--All-state selections were voted on by a panel of coaches and media statewide. For the player voting, a first-place vote was worth 15 points, second place 14, third 13 and so on. For coach of the year voting, first place was worth three points, second place two points and third place one point.
BACK TO TOP
Taylor remade: Coach rebuilds Buffs for 2-peat
Coming off a 2005 girls basketball championship, it was easy to peg Punahou as the favorite to win this year's crown.
Never mind that key seniors, including point guard Shanna-Lei Dacanay and forward Christine Takara, were gone.
Never mind that Punahou's nemesis, Iolani, was senior-heavy, talent-laden and incredibly deep.
With all eyes focused on returning player of the year Shawna-Lei Kuehu, the Buffanblu took a few lumps and seemed unprepared to defend their Interscholastic League of Honolulu crown, let alone win a second straight state title.
A 35-31 loss to Kamehameha crystallized the struggles of a relatively young and inexperienced team. In the loss, Kuehu scored 18 points, while her twin sister, Shaena-Lyn, had 13 to account for all of their team's offense.
"There actually was pressure, but our team didn't give up," said Shaena-Lyn Kuehu. "Coach's analogy of the fist was we have to have all five players on the court working together as a team."
From that point on, Punahou never struggled so much again. Coach Mike Taylor never lost intensity or creativity. The Buffanblu grew by leaps and bounds thanks to role players who increased production. Their fullcourt press became a behemoth of a weapon that forced 99 turnovers in three state-tournament games.
Through it all, Taylor was the constant as Punahou finished 22-2.
"We usually start the season with a bang and gradually increase and improve to states. This year was very different," Taylor said of his sixth season at the helm.
The same team that struggled at times in regular-season play won by an average of 20.3 points per game at the state tourney.
"He kept everything the same, but he had us pick up our intensity more," Shawna-Lei Kuehu said.
Defensive effort was an anchor for Punahou's late-season push. Senior Sophie Merrifield was a cog in the fullcourt press.
Ciana Aiwohi was a key part, as well, playing the final few weeks with a torn ACL.
"I'm very proud of our underclassmen because they really developed a fine work ethic along the journey and played with a lot of confidence in states," said Taylor, who teaches at Punahou's elementary school. "It'll be fun to see this group next year with the improved play of the twins. We're gonna enjoy this title quite a bit because of where we started and where we ended up.
"What a journey it sure was."
Roosevelt coach Bobby Keanini, who guided his team to its first Oahu Interscholastic Association title since 1982, was second in the voting. Clay Cockett of Kamehameha and Darold Imanaka of Kalani were third and fourth.