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Punahou claims another ILH girls water polo crown

Apr. 23—The Punahou girls water polo dynasty rolled on with a victory in home waters on Friday.

Led by a stout defense and timely scoring, Punahou defeated Kamehameha 7-3 to grab the ILH Girls Water Polo Championship at Punahou School.

"Usually we have a big group of seniors that lead us, " Punahou senior Colette Jones said. "For this group to win an ILH championship is a huge accomplishment. We work together as a team. I'm really proud of how we did today."

The dynastic Buffanblu (11-0 ) have now won 13 consecutive ILH titles and will look to win their 13th straight HHSAA crown at the Stanford Carr Development /HHSAA Girls Water Polo Championships on May 2-7 as the ILH's seeded team.

"It's so meaningful because we've got a great group of seniors, and the last time they competed was in the ninth grade, " Punahou head coach Kenneth Smith said. "Other people on this team have never even had a chance to compete for an ILH championship. So this ILH championship and the upcoming state championship are very meaningful to them, because of all they've had to sacrifice, everything they've missed."

Punahou got big contributions on both ends. Jones led the team with a hat trick, with season scoring leader, junior Allison Kauahi, not far behind with a pair of goals.

"One of our strengths is that we have a lot of different people who can score, " Smith said. "One game earlier in the season we had seven or eight people all score. That makes us hard to defend, because if one player is not scoring tonight, someone else might be."

Defensively, freshman keeper Reia Kimi was excellent in goal, racking up a dozen saves and holding Kamehameha (7-4 ) to just three goals.

"I'm feeling happy about the game, happy about the communication, " Kimi said of her performance. "But there is a lot I can still learn from this game. I know I still have to work on my passes, maybe the communication. But overall as a team, I think we did a really good job, and I'm excited for the next game."

"We emphasize defense a lot. It's about everybody helping each other, and they did a good job with that, " Smith added. "To hold Kamehameha to only three goals is pretty good. They are well coached and they have a lot of good offensive players. So to hold them to three means we're playing pretty good team defense."

After winning the opening sprint, Kamehameha missed a chance to score what turned out to be a much needed point when its first shot sailed over the goal. Instead, Punahou grabbed that chance. Kauahi broke the scoreless tie with goals at 5 :30 and 1 :42. Both shots came from near the goal.

The tight defensive battle continued into the second period. Neither team scored for the first five minutes. Jones scored her first goal on a Buffanblu power play with 1 :52 remaining in the half. Kamehameha's Reaves Dayton broke up the shutout bid with 22 seconds left to play, scoring on a deep, arching shot from near the middle of the pool.

Punahou matched its entire first half production with three goals in the third period. Less than a minute into the second half, Kaylee Ogawa broke away from her defender, scoring a goal at 6 :20 after a free run on goal. A minute later, Jones scored her second goal, a quick "blink and you'll miss it " score.

The Warriors also found success in the period, as Leina'ala Wong took advantage of a 6-on-4 power play and scored her first goal at 4 :30. Punahou's Jones was next to score with a goal near the net at 3 :16, but Wong answered to score with 13 seconds left and cut the deficit to 6-3 heading into the final period.

Mirroring the first half, the fourth period turned out to be a defensive battle. The lone score of the period came on a Punahou power play. Hudson Geier tallied on an empty net at 6 :12. Kimi made three saves in the final frame.