Punahou pulls off state basketball double whammy
In the blink of an eye, not one, but two brilliant basketball seasons came to a close.
The Punahou girls captured their 10th basketball state crown, including four under Mike Taylor. Three of those big trophies were with twins Shawna-Lei and Shaena-Lyn Kuehu (2005, '06 and '08).
The Buffanblu boys, meanwhile, won their ninth state title -- the first under Dan Hale. Only five times have boys and girls basketball teams from the same school won state championships in the same year. The most recent prior to this year was in 1993, when Kamehameha reigned on the hardwood.
Punahou had not done this feat since 1981, when Hale was still a player. That was the last leg in a run of three double basketball titles in a row by the Buffanblu.
"Both teams played in Alumni Gym, but that year, the gym was torn down and construction on (Hemmeter Fieldhouse) was going on," girls basketball statistician Alan Lau recalled. "They practiced in 12 different places like the Coast Guard facility (at Sand Island). It would take a while to get there in rush-hour traffic, even back then."
For Punahou's girls, facilities aren't a challenge anymore. Injuries were just one of the challenges to beat in the past year. Both Kuehu sisters suffered ACL injuries in late '06 and sat out their junior season. Not only did Punahou's two-year streak of state titles end, the sisters could only hope that their recovery would be timely.
"To be honest, we've come a long way," Shawna-Lei Kuehu said after amassing 20 points and 13 rebounds in the 46-41 state final win over Iolani on Friday.
"We've got a young team and just three seniors. I'm relieved. We pushed our hardest."
Iolani, using its four-guard lineup to the fullest, opened a 21-12 lead on Chanel Hirata's NBA-range 3-pointer with more than 3 minutes left in the first half. Punahou whittled away, but Hirata's 17-footer from the corner opened another nine-point lead midway through the third quarter.
Taylor didn't lose hope.
"We knew once we settled down, we'd be all right," he said.
One of Punahou's weapons turned out to be Ashley Satterwhite, a 6-foot sophomore whose quickness in the fullcourt press was key. She also gave the Buffanblu another tenacious offensive rebounder. Working with both Kuehu sisters under the boards, they made life difficult for Iolani standout Jamie Smith.
"That's what Ashley does. She creates havoc with her hard defense and hitting the boards," Taylor said of Satterwhite, who is also a track athlete.
Punahou's press became the catalyst as Iolani's normally reliable ballhandling skills seemed to erode.
"We went after them and it took a toll," Taylor said.
Punahou's 16-4 run was a tsunami. After Shawna-Lei Kuehu hit a pull-up jumper from the foul line, Janelle Nomura hit a free throw, and the Buffanblu had a 40-37 lead with 4:50 left. Iolani got within one point, but couldn't get over the hump.
Hirata scored 18 points, but her birthday turned out to be bittersweet as Iolani's valiant effort fell a bit short.