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'Iolani's lone goal enough to top Punahou for ILH title

Feb. 1—'Iolani's Keane Palmer lined up for a free kick from just outside the penalty box Wednesday against Punahou and wasn't daunted by a five-player wall.

He actually liked what he saw and decided to take his shot. Palmer scored in the 22nd minute on a left-footed shot that bent over the wall and into the top-right corner of the goal as host 'Iolani beat Punahou 1-0 in the ILH boys championship playoff.

Devin Lee ran over the ball from left to right and Palmer sent his shot from the right side just out of the reach of Buffanblu goalkeeper Aslan Chong.

"I saw that front post open and it looked really good," Palmer said. "Me and Devin we line up, so it gives us versatility. They can't predict where we're going to go."

'Iolani, which won its 15th ILH title, will receive a first-round bye at boys Division I state championships, which start Monday.

"Tight season like this against Punahou, we're going to enjoy it and we'll prepare ourselves for hopefully a long run into the tournament," said 'Iolani's Chris Lee, who is back coaching after a one-year absence.

Punahou also will represent the ILH in the 12-team tournament.

"Now is going to be a new tournament and we cannot think about the past and we're going to just focus on what's coming up," Punahou coach Hugo Gutierrez said.

The Buffanblu and Raiders played to scoreless draws on Dec. 11 and Jan. 23.

"The first two times we met each other it was 0-0. I didn't think it was going to be by a very big margin today either," Lee said.

'Iolani, the defending state champion, and Punahou were assured of qualifying for the state tournament after the completion of games Friday. Both teams won on Tuesday's final day of the regular season to finish at 8-0-2 (26 points) and set up the playoff.

The Raiders were awarded the free kick against the Buffanblu on Wednesday after Chong handled the ball just outside of the penalty box.

Then Palmer and Lee had to decide who was going to take the kick.

"In the moment just depending on what the defense is giving us, where the ball is positioned, where the goalkeeper is positioned. We can see if the far post is open or the near post is open," Palmer said.

He added he scored on a similar play against Saint Louis on Jan. 20.

"I did it against Saint Louis and I was confident I could do it again today. Luckily, I was able to put it in the top bin over the wall how I practiced," Palmer said.

Punahou actually had two shots on goal in the first half, while 'Iolani had zero, excluding the free-kick goal.

"We were handling the game really well and that was definitely one piece that put us a little bit down," Gutierrez said. "We tried to be collected, but it's hard when you're down. We continued to try and play our game."

Punahou's best scoring opportunity came in the 38th when Andrew Lovell received a through ball, dodged 'Iolani goalkeeper Brayden Obrero and placed his arching shot on top of the goal.

Both teams had three shots on goal in the second half.

The game ended in exciting fashion when Obrero just beat a Punahou player to the ball with a sliding save and got run over in the process. The Buffanblu player was accessed a yellow card and the final whistle blew not much later.

"Brayden had to step up this year," Lee said. "We actually lost Tanner Shum, who was our all-star keeper last year. He got hurt during football season trying to make a tackle. He's out for the season and Brayden stepped up really well for us."