Punahou locks up state berth


POSTED: Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Two points from losing the match, the Punahou Buffanblu needed a minor miracle.

Punahou (15-1) got its opportunity and rallied for a 21-25, 25-16, 26-24 win over No. 1-ranked Kamehameha to capture the Interscholastic League of Honolulu regular-season title and an automatic state-tourney berth.

The Buffanblu rallied back despite a 23-18 deficit in the third game.

“;I could not breathe. I was like, 'Oh, my gosh, I'm gonna start crying,' “; said Lahela Williams, who had a team-high five aces. “;We're going to states!”;

Anuhea Keanini delivered perhaps her best performance of the season with 11 kills, 18 assists, 12 digs and two aces. She wasn't alone, though, when the second-ranked Buffanblu needed clutch plays.

Trailing by five points in the final set, Tai Manu-Olevao hammered a kill and Brigitte Russo blocked Misty Ma'a to bring Punahou within 23-20.

Charlotte Fonua hammered a kill from the right side, and after a Warriors timeout, Russo and Fonua combined on a roof to bring Punahou within 23-22.

A raucous crowd of about 700 at Kekuhaupio Gym, mostly pro-Kamehameha, drew a sigh of relief when Talia Jardin caromed her kill off a Punahou block for a 24-22 lead.

However, Manu-Olevao put down a kill to bring the visitors within 24-23, and after another Kamehameha timeout, Warriors setter Caitlyn Andrade and Jardin mis-timed a quick-setting play at the middle. That allowed Punahou to tie it at 24-all.

Keanini then powered her next swing off the back row, and the ball ricocheted up to the 10th row to give Punahou a 25-24 lead.

Her ensuing swing was the final kill, off a Kamehameha block and out of bounds, ending a gut-wrenching 85-minute match.

“;This is a tough league. I'm proud of them,”; Punahou coach Jim Iams said. “;And relieved.”;

Manu-Olevao finished with nine kills and Malia Patterson tallied 16 assists. Juliana Behrens added six kills in the middle and Fonua had five.

Middle hitter Alex Akana and Taylor Akana paced Kamehameha (14-2) with 10 kills each. Alex Akana had six kills, two blocks and an ace in the final set,. Three of her powerful kills and a block came during a 6-0 run that gave Kamehameha a 20-16 lead in the final game.

“;Punahou outplayed us and we couldn't push on the end game,”; she said. “;We'll come back tomorrow and work hard.”;

Whitney Viveiros added seven kills and a team-high four aces. Andrade had 32 assists and Ma'a, a freshman, finished with five kills.

While Punahou has a state berth locked up, the rest of the league will battle to claim the remaining Division I slot through the ILH's single-elimination tournament, which begins this week. It's a drastic turn of events for three-time defending state champion Kamehameha, which led the ILH for most of the regular season.

“;I'm happy it's five sets now,”; Akana said of the tournament format. “;We run a lot and lift a lot. It's going to help us.”;