GIRLS DIVISION I
Top seed ousts champ
Faced with the prospect of opening state tournament play against the defending state champion, Punahou coach Mike Taylor didn't flinch.
"I loved it," Taylor said of his reaction when the brackets for the Hawaiian Airlines/HHSAA state girls basketball tournament were released.
"We love competition, and if you're going to play the best, might as well play the defending state champ right away."
Top-seeded Punahou avenged its loss to Konawaena in last year's Division I state title game last night, hanging on for a 45-41 quarterfinal win over the Wildcats at Farrington High School gym.
Konawaena cut a nine-point Punahou lead in the fourth quarter to two in the final minute. But the Buffanblu managed to hold off the Wildcats from the free-throw line, hitting nine of 10 in the final 3:29.
Punahou senior Shawna-Lei Kuehu, playing in her first state tournament game since leading Punahou to the title her sophomore year, led all scorers with 16 points despite being saddled with foul trouble for much of the game.
Point guard Dara Tompkison hit two 3-pointers and made two free throws with 20 seconds left to seal the game, finishing with nine points.
"I was proud of the kids," Taylor said. "They just sacrificed for one another, played for each other and we hung in there and played good basketball down the stretch."
Punahou advances to face Oahu Interscholastic Association runner-up Radford in a semifinal at 8 tonight at Farrington.
Konawaena faces Lahainaluna in a fifth-place bracket game at 6.
Punahou and Konawaena combined to win each of the last four Division I state titles. Punahou had won in 2005 and 2006 before the Wildcats knocked off the Buffanblu 59-47 in last year's championship game.
Punahou twins Shawna-Lei and Shaena-Lyn Kuehu weren't on the floor that night, both out with injuries, and the seniors combined to score eight of Punahou's first 10 points of the second half last night to give the Buffanblu --back in action after a three-week break -- some breathing room until Konawaena made a late push that fell just short.
"We just came back from three weeks off; it was a matter of time before we got a feel of it again," Shawna-Lei Kuehu said. "I think we just needed some time to let it come together. Now we have the feel of playing another team, and a really good team."
A young Konawaena team returned to the state tournament as the second-place team from the Big Island Interscholastic Federation with four freshmen and four juniors joining senior Mana Hopkins.
Hopkins, who scored 26 points in the win over Punahou win last year, led the Wildcats last night with 16 points.
"This is great for the girls for them to play in this kind of game," Konawaena coach Bobbie Awa said. "It was good they could go in and feel confident and play at this level."
Radford 54, Lahainaluna 46
By attacking Lahainaluna's strength, Radford rallied past the Lunas to earn the school's first berth in the state semifinals since 1996.
With two of the Lunas' frontcourt starters on the bench after fouling out in the third quarter, the Rams stormed back from a 10-point deficit for the win.
Sophomore center Ta Nitra Byrd came off the bench to lead the Rams with 18 points, 12 coming in the second half when Lahainaluna center Milika Taufa and forward Rachel Rickard fouled out.
"We didn't know too much about Lahainaluna, but what we did know was (Taufa) scores 16-18 points a game," Radford coach Tani Dutro said. "So we knew we had to take it to her and hopefully get her out of the game and get her into foul trouble."
Taufa, a 5-foot-10 sophomore center, controlled the paint on both ends, scoring 12 points before fouling out in the third quarter.
Taufa picked up her third foul with 5:18 left in the second quarter, but stayed on the floor and scored eight of the Lady Lunas' 17 points in the period. Lahainaluna closed the first half with a 13-3 run, holding Radford without a field goal for the final 5 minutes and took a 29-23 lead into the break.
The lead reached double figures at 33-23 with 5:22 left in the third quarter.
"We were telling each other let's try not to get frustrated and yell and make the situation worse," Byrd said.
Taufa picked up her fourth foul with 4:07 left in the third quarter and was whistled for her fifth less than 2 minutes later, ending her night. Rickard followed her to the bench 29 seconds later.