Punahou rolls past Kailua to reach state hoops quarterfinals

Feb. 20—A little of the old and a little of the new turned out to be the right formula for Punahou.

A little of the old and a little of the new turned out to be the right formula for Punahou.

The Buffanblu unleashed their 2-2-1 press on Kailua, turning a back-and-forth battle into a 76-40 rout in the opening round of the Heide & Cook /HHSAA Boys Basketball State Championships on Monday night at Hemmeter Fieldhouse.

Ever-consistent James Taras led Punahou's scorers with 21 points, shooting 8-for-15 from the field and 2-for-3 at the free-throw line. He scored 10 points in the second quarter, including back-to-back 3-pointers as the home team went on a 14-0 run. That turned a 17-15 deficit into a 29-17 advantage shortly before halftime.

"I'm excited to keep playing on Thursday, for sure, " said Taras, a 6-foot-5 senior.

ILH runner-up Punahou (21-6 ) will play BIIF champion Kamehameha-Hawaii on Thursday at 7 p.m., at Saint Louis' Clarence T.C. Ching Gymnasium. The Buffanblu showed a lot more verve than they did in a loss to Saint Louis last week with the ILH title at stake.

"The main problem against Saint Louis is we were kind of rusty, and I don't think we came into it as ready as we should've been. After that, everybody realized that we can't just go into a game and expect to compete. We have to be ready, and that's what we did, " Taras said.

Punahou's press turned out to be Kailua's kryptonite. With a young team, including several sophomores in the rotation, Kailua committed five turnovers in the second quarter and six more in the third. Dillon Kellner and Noah Macapulay swarmed just about everywhere to deflect passes and turn steals into quick buckets.

Leading 29-20 at intermission, Punahou went on a 14-4 run to open a 19-point lead. Kailua never recovered. Kellner finished with 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting from the field. Macapulay had eight assists, four steals and five rebounds.

"Everyone had energy. We're running around, trying to trap. We all just feed off each other. When we're all playing hard, we really get rolling and it's a fun game, " Kellner said. "We use that press to our advantage. We have so many athletes on our team."

Punahou was a heavy pressing team in the past, winning two state titles under coach Darren Matsuda. They pulled back defensively for most of the season, relying on halfcourt man-to-man defense and a patient motion offense with lots of ball movement. Monday night revealed a Buffanblu squad with the best of both styles.

"We just have more legs at this point. The ILH is such a grind league with so many games. We worked on our press during our break, " Matsuda said.

Kailua, ranked as high as No. 2 during the preseason, finished 21-6. Sophomore Maddox Pung had 15 points and four rebounds, while senior Noa Donnelly closed his prep career with 10 points, eight boards and three assists. Donnelly shot 3-for-12 from the field as Punahou converged on the Kailua center. Dylan Kunz added 10 points on 4-for-12 shooting, chipping in three rebounds.

"We were decent coming out the first quarter. We were looking really good and they just got hot. You can't do nothing about that, " Donnelly said.

The opening moments of the game seemed to spell trouble for Punahou. Ayndra Uperesa-Thomas picked up his second foul with 6 :41 to go in the first quarter as Kailua opened a quick 6-0 lead. However, Kekai Burnett came off the bench to score five quick points as Punahou righted the ship.

Burnett, a 6-foot-3, 245-pound senior, finished with nine points and four boards. Punahou shot 56 % from the field as a team (32-for-57 ), including 8-for-15 from the arc. The Buffanblu also outrebounded Kailua 39-24.

Kalaheo 51, Mililani 48 Payton Smith and Joshua Schutter hit successive 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter for a 41-38 lead and the Mustangs held off the host Trojans to advance to the quarterfinals of Heide & Cook Boys Basketball Championships.

CJ Bostic, who led the way with 15 points and seven rebounds, converted an and-1 with 2 :48 to play to make it 46-42. Schutter's free throw with 14 seconds left made it 51-48. Roman Gabriel, who scored 10 points, missed a 3 with four seconds left.

Jaron Gilmore scored 13 and Schutter 11 for the Mustangs, who used only six players. Timothy Dorn scored 16 for the Trojans.

Kalaheo will face fourth-seeded Baldwin 5 p.m. at Punahou on Thursday.

Kahuku 53, Kamehameha-Maui 42 Kash Daley was on the money on six of eight shots from beyond the arc and scored 20 points to lead the Red Raiders past the host Warriors and into Thursday's quarterfinals.

Kahuku will meet second-seeded Leilehua at 5 p.m. at Saint Louis gym.

Dylan Schnitzer led Kamehameha-Maui with 23 points.

Kache Kaio had 11 rebounds for the Red Raiders, who trailed 23-22 at halftime but pulled away by outscoring the Warriors 18-10 in the fourth quarter.

Nanakuli 50, Hilo 45 Nehemiah Thompson, Ezekiel Donnell and Dragon Kekahuna hit key 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to rally the Golden Hawks past the host Vikings.

Kekahuna's 3 with 4 :20 left gave Nanakuli the lead for good at 44-39. He followed with two free throws with 45 seconds left for a 48-44 lead.

Nanakuli will play two-time defending state champion Saint Louis on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Punahou.

Caleb Paakaula scored 10, including two free throws with no time left. Ikena Leao and Peyton Pana each scored 16 apiece for Hilo.

HHSAA DIVISION I MONDAY Opening round—Nanakuli 50, Hilo 45—Kahuku 53, Kamehameha-Maui 42—Kalaheo 51, Mililani 48—Punahou 76, Kailua 40 THURSDAY Quarterfinals At Punahou—Kalaheo vs. (No. 4 seed ) Baldwin, 5 p.m.—Nanakuli vs. (No. 1 ) Saint Louis, 7 p.m.

At Saint Louis—Kahuku vs. (No. 2 ) Leilehua, 5 p.m.—Punahou vs. (No. 3 ) Kamehameha-Hawaii, 7 p.m.

FRIDAY Fifth-place semifinals at Saint Louis : 5 and 6 :30 p.m.

Semifinals at Punahou : 5 and 7 p.m.

SATURDAY At Blaisdell Arena—Fifth place, 9 a.m.—Third place, 1 p.m.—Championship, 7 p.m.

HHSAA DIVISION II THURSDAY Quarterfinals At Kaimuki—No. 4 seed Kapaa vs. No. 5 Kaimuki, 5 p.m.—No. 1 seed Kohala vs. Le Jardin, 7 p.m.

At Kalani—No. 3 seed Seabury vs. Pahoa, 5 p.m.—No. 2 seed University vs. Aiea, 7 p.m.

FRIDAY Fifth-place semifinals at Kalani : 5 and 6 :30 p.m.

Semifinals at Kaimuki : 5 and 7 p.m.

SATURDAY At Blaisdell Arena—Fifth place, 11 a.m.—Third place, 3 p.m.—Championship, 5 p.m.