Crabb helps Buffanblu shut down No. 1 Raiders
The Big Blue Wall is back.
Sophomore Kaimi Crabb had four of his team's 11 blocks as No. 2 Punahou swept No. 1 Iolani 25-17, 25-21 last night before a boisterous crowd of about 800 at Hemmeter Fieldhouse.
Crabb was one of three sophomores in the starting lineup for the Buffanblu, who improved to 6-0 in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu. Iolani dropped to 7-1, losing its first match since last season.
"Something like this environment, that's new for me and a lot of us, actually," Crabb said of the big, noisy crowd. Both school bands were also in attendance. "We were nervous, but you can't play nervous."
Iolani coach Mike Among paid kudos to the Buffanblu, especially the middle blockers.
"Their middles were the difference," he said. "Kaimi and Jeremy (Kaimikaua) stuffed us a lot. We've gotta go back and fix our block."
The Buffanblu used a balanced attack -- seven kills by sophomore Henry Cassiday and six apiece for dual outside hitters/setters Maddison McKibbin and Erik Shoji -- to thwart the visitors. The three-time defending state champs had just four hitting errors in all.
Brad Lawson, Iolani's 6-foot-7 outside hitter, had 15 kills and just one hitting error. No other Raider had more than two kills.
"Coach said it was his loss, his responsibility, but I don't think so. We just weren't psyched up enough for this match," Lawson said. "It takes extra mental focus and passion to beat a team like Punahou."
Punahou broke open a close first game with a 6-1 run. McKibbin, who had four kills and three assists in the first set, pounded away as the Buffanblu surged to a 14-9 lead. Iolani got no closer than five points the rest of the way.
The second game was a different tale most of the way. After a kill by Lawson and two Punahou errors, the Raiders led 16-12.
After a time out by coach Rick Tune, the Buffanblu rallied to tie the game four times before finally taking a 21-20 lead on a kill by Cassiday. Lawson hustled in for the dig, but his momentum took him over the line under the net.
Crabb followed with a roof of Lawson, who was double- and tripled-blocked all night. The Raiders got within 22-21 on a kill by Logan Nowack, but Crabb answered with a kill down the middle, and Cassiday slammed home a freebie off a bad Iolani pass. Another bad pass by the Raiders led to a net violation, and Punahou had a victory in 1 hour of work.
Iolani had only one hitting error in the second game, but Punahou's attack was firing from every angle.
"The Punahou staff did an excellent job of preparing their boys," Among said. "They scouted us very well. I expected Maddy (McKibbin) to play well, but their two outsides, Cassiday and (Taylor) Crabb did a good job."
Kaimi Crabb, who is 6-4, added three kills, as did Kaimikaua. Shoji tallied 16 assists and McKibbin added nine in Punahou's attack.
"Our guys knew the magnitude of this game," Tune said. "Once Iolani walks through the door, they know. We're a pretty efficient team, but I've seen us play better than tonight.
"It's a good win, and it's a great reward for our effort to this point, but it's a check point, not an end point. I know Iolani's going back to the gym to work hard. Iolani knows it's just one game."
Shoji is one of the returning starters from last year's state championship squad. He wasn't surprised by the poise of the underclassmen.
"We have so many, so many new guys, people don't know what we can do," he said, noting that the pre-match jitters were real. "We decided to warm up on this side (of the curtain) so we could focus."
Among and the Raiders will look forward to a rematch with Punahou in two weeks.
"As a coach, it's not just my job to get them ready physically," Among said. "But to bring that passion."