HIGH SCHOOL WATER POLO
Punahou, Kamehameha in water polo title match
Punahou's staple defense carried the Buffanblu to their third Local Motion/HHSAA Girls Water Polo State Championship title game in five years yesterday.
"(Defense) is our bread and butter. Anything easy on offense is attributed to our defense."
Kulani Jenkins / Punahou senior
The top-seeded Buffanblu put the clamps on previously unbeaten Lahainaluna in pulling away early for a 14-4 victory that was never in doubt after the first quarter at the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center.
Kamehameha, an 8-5 winner over Kahuku, challenges the Buffs in an all-Interscholastic League of Honolulu final today at 3 p.m.
Aisha Price got Punahou (10-0) on the board in the first 15 seconds with a nice spin move and hesitation shot to freeze the defense of the Maui Interscholastic League champs.
"We're really excited -- we came out hard we wanted to put this game away," said Price, a junior who scored a match-high five goals. "We wanted to send a message, and we knew what we were going to do. Just had to execute it."
The damage piled up quickly as Punahou, the 2004 and 2005 state champions, took a 5-1 lead at the end of the first period, and 7-1 advantage at halftime.
With physical, imposing defensive pressure, the Buffanblu forced the Lunas (11-1) into turnovers again and again, and giveaways far outnumbered their shot attempts by the time it was over.
"We talked a lot about just our team defense, and we talked a lot about helping each other," coach Ken Smith said. "I thought we did a great, great job of helping. I thought that was the difference."
Senior Kulani Jenkins scored three times and set up two more goals with pinpoint passes, while Shayna Price netted three goals and Brailey Hirose-Hulbert added two. Many of the scoring opportunities were created from swift outlet passes by goalkeeper Terra DeBold when her teammates forced a bad pass and jetted up the pool.
"(Defense) is our bread and butter," Jenkins said. "Anything easy on offense is attributed to our defense."
She was slightly disappointed her team yielded three Lahainaluna goals in the third quarter.
"I think we can do a better job though (of keeping up defensive intensity). We didn't hold them as well as we should have in the middle there. That's definitely going to be our goal next game."
Moana Tuipulotu led the Lunas with two goals.
Lunas coach Will Hutchinson could only marvel at the well-oiled Buffanblu machine, and held a grudging respect for what he called their 'foul and drop' defensive system of committing a willing foul then pressuring up on nearby players to intercept a pass.
"Punahou just brings such a high skill level and such intensity in a game, you have a hard time matching it early," he said. "It's not that we didn't play hard, it's just they're a very special team. I understood that they were going to come out all cylinders firing from the get-go."
Kamehameha 8, Kahuku 5
Kamehameha pulled away from a resilient Kahuku team in the fourth quarter behind two goals on turnaround shots from Nanea Fujiyama in a 30-second span with 3 minutes remaining.
Kahuku, the Oahu Interscholastic Association champion, fervently worked to score in the final minutes but was limited to one second-half goal as the Warriors tightened things up for a showdown with top-seeded Punahou.
"We were telling each other, 'it shouldn't be this close,'" said Fujiyama, a junior who scored a match-high four times. "We knew what they were going to do to us (from scrimmages), we just had to make adjustments. Every single person had to step it up, and they did."
Gina Ahue scored a team-high three goals for Kahuku, while Kehau Ai had two scores for Kamehameha.