Buffanblu's fullcourt pressure frustrates Konawaena, 58-43
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By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Wes Nakama
Punahou will aim for its third Hawaiian Airlines/HHSAA Girls Basketball State Championship in four years tonight after outlasting Konawaena, 58-43, in last night's semifinals.
The No. 1 seed and Interscholastic League of Honolulu champion Buffanblu (11-2) will face No. 2 seed and O'ahu Interscholastic Association champ Roosevelt (16-1) at 8 p.m. at Stan Sheriff Center. The game will be televised live statewide on OC-16.
Last night's Punahou-Konawaena game was a rematch of the thrilling 2005 state final won by the Buffanblu in double overtime. But it started ugly, with a helter-skelter first half in which the Wildcats (14-3) committed 20 turnovers to Punahou's 12.
The Buffanblu led 25-17 at that point, but Konawaena closed to 31-28 by the end of the third period. In the final quarter, however, the Wildcats showed fatigue and Punahou out-scored them 16-4 in the first three minutes.
"I think our full-court pressure wore on their whole team," Buffanblu coach Mike Taylor said. "They got fatigued, and we got some breaks."
Leading the way again was sophomore post Shawna Kuehu, who finished with a game-high 22 points, seven rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals. She also was 8 for 8 from the free-throw line. Twin sister Shaena added 14 points, three assists and two steals.
Punahou also got valuable minutes from guard Janelle Nomura, a freshman who came off the bench to contribute seven points, four assists and four steals, while committing only one turnover.
"Janelle is a playmaker and she handles the ball well," Taylor said. "She's a go-getter, and what I like about her is that if she makes a mistake, it's because she's trying hard. Tonight she settled us down and got us organized."
The Buffanblu also received a strong defensive effort from senior forward Sophie Merrifield, who helped limit Konawaena post Jazzmin Awa-Williams to 10 points and five rebounds. Awa-Williams had scored over 20 points in each of the Wildcats' first two state tournament games.
Wildcats coach Bobbie Awa said Punahou's full-court pressure, plus an officiating crew that let the girls play, had an effect on Williams' offense.
"She's supposed to be a forward, but she's having to bring the ball up against pressure and she's getting bumped a lot, so there was frustration," Awa said. "We got bumped and pushed a lot, but our girls still gotta be smarter. We told them not to get into a running game, that we need to be patient on offense, but we got into a running game anyway. We're not going to win a game where we have that many turnovers (36) and miss that many free throws (10 of 20)."
Shawna Kuehu said the youthful Buffanblu were confident about returning to the finals despite losing several key seniors from last year's team.
"Our coach just told us to keep playing with determination and go all out, but play with poise," Kuehu said. "We're playing for our respect, and we're going out with a bang."
Reach Wes Nakama at email@example.com.