HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Shawna-Lei Kuehu has Punahou back in the top spot in the state with the Buffanblu's recent win over Iolani.
Punahou waits for states as new No. 1
STORY SUMMARY »
Life is good for the Punahou girls.
They have secured the ILH title in girls basketball, were awarded the top spot in the Star-Bulletin girls basketball poll and have finally got all of their players back from injury.
Now there is nothing left to do but wait for every other team to get into the tournament. It's time to party.
Punahou coach Mike Taylor will keep practices light while his players enjoy the upcoming Punahou Carnival.
Then it's back to business.
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There are rankings, and then there's reality.
Reality means the timing could not have worked out better for the Punahou girls basketball team. Saturday's decisive win over Iolani gave them the Interscholastic League of Honolulu championship and the benefits are outstanding: an automatic state-tournament berth with a first-round bye and three weeks to prepare.
Coaches and media in the Star-Bulletin Girls Basketball Top 10 gave Punahou all 19 first-place votes for a No. 1 ranking. Iolani dropped to No. 2, but that lofty ranking doesn't help. The Raiders will have to face the rest of the league for a coveted second state berth.
While the rest of the ILH goes to battle, the Buffanblu can heal up, take care of responsibilities for the upcoming Punahou Carnival, and get somewhat of a break from a basketball schedule that has been a grind.
Punahou has played two to three games per week since early December, including a trip to the Nike Tournament of Champions in Phoenix, Ariz. Their physical style of defense -- full-court pressure and a lot of bruises -- means that the time off is welcome.
The Buffanblu lost at Iolani two weeks ago and slipped to No. 2 in the Top 10. However, guard Janelle Nomura returned from a foot injury and Shawna-Lei Kuehu has gotten stronger since tweaking her knee a bit in that Iolani game. They led a balanced scoring attack in Saturday's win over the Raiders.
"Our practices have been awesome. They've been competitive, really going at each other," coach Mike Taylor said. "We've pushed it a little harder with a little more sense of urgency."
Nomura, who thrives in the open court, brought her high energy to practice when her foot healed up. Taylor credits Rebecca Lau and Dara Tompkison for maintaining order in the backcourt while Nomura was out.
" 'Becca and Dara did a great job of holding down the fort. They've played stellar defense and run the offense. They lock down our opponents' top perimeter players," Taylor said.
The Punahou Carnival is an event that players are entrenched in. Some players are involved with the variety show, which means evening rehearsals. Others are booth chairpersons. Taylor will have lighter, shorter practices.
"They're gonna be on their feet a lot, so we're fortunate they'll have time," he said.
After the carnival, the Buffanblu will be done with lighter practices and get back to regular preparation.
"We'll add a few wrinkles and go hard in the final two weeks," Taylor said.
The state tournament begins Feb. 19.
Star-Bulletin Top 10
The top 10 high school girls basketball teams, according to a poll of coaches and media.
| 1. Punahou (19), 11-1
| 2. Iolani, 17-4
||lost to Punahou
| 3. Radford, 16-6
||beat Pearl City
| 4. Waiakea, 13-2
| 5. Kalani, 18-3
| 6. Hilo, 14-4
||beat Hawaii Prep
| 7. Konawaena, 14-2
| 8. Roosevelt, 14-6
| 9. Kamehameha, 11-9
||at Sacred Hearts
|10. Farrington, 14-4
||lost to Roosevelt
» Voted on by coaches and media from around the state
» First-place votes in parentheses
» 10 points for first-place vote, 9 for second, 8 for third; etc.
» Also received votes: Lahainaluna 12, KS-Hawaii 7, Kahuku 1, McKinley 1, Mid-Pacific 1