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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, May 20, 2006

Kuehu's outstanding in final

 •  Punahou back on top of state hoops, 61-39

By Leila Wai
Advertiser Staff Writer

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Exiting the game with one minute, 44 seconds left, Shawna-Lei Kuehu took a seat after one of the most dominating performances in Hawai'i girls basketball history.

The Punahou sophomore forward scored a state-tournament, single-game record of 37 points in a 61-39 win over Roosevelt for the Buffanblu's second straight title at the Hawaiian Airlines/HHSAA Girls Basketball State Championships at the University of Hawai'i's Stan Sheriff Center last night.

"It was one of the top (performances), if not the top," Punahou coach Mike Taylor said. "I don't want to say it's the top because she has two more years."

The tournament most outstanding player's 37 points were two less than all of the Rough Riders, and the most in the 30 years of the girls state tournament.

"I never really knew about any record," Kuehu said. "I was kind of shocked. I didn't know I did it; I was just playing my game."

Driving in the paint, as she had most of the night, Kuehu broke the record of 35 (held by four others) with 26 seconds left in the third quarter. She tied the record on the second of two free throws with 1:13 left in the third quarter.

"Big players step up in big games," Taylor said. "She took what the defense was giving her. She hit the pockets of the zone, and the guards did a good job getting her the ball."

Kuehu started on her record with 11 points in the first 3:16 at the end of the first quarter, and 25 by the half's end. Her 37th point was her final score of the night. She also had seven rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks and made 16 of 23 field-goal attempts.

Kuehu worked on her outside shot and pull-up moves in the offseason, and said: "Coach told me 'I just want you to play your game and put everything together that you learned,' and I did it," she said.

Kuehu said an early season groin injury, when she was out for three weeks, led her to improved weight lifting. She noticed the difference this season.

"I could go up and bang with these girls," said Kuehu, who added that she also gained needed upper-body strength from push-ups at practice.

Despite what she does on the court, Taylor said what makes Kuehu special is her humbleness.

"She's always willing to accept criticism," he said. "She's coachable and wants to learn. To have a student-athlete like that, it's a dream for a coach to have."

Kuehu broke the previous record which was shared by Sheila Scott of Maryknoll against Honoka'a in 1987, Melanie Azama of Iolani versus Kamehameha in 1990, Kohala's Annette Marquez against Kahuku in 1991 and most recently by 'Aiea's Aritta Lane against Punahou in 2001.

"Compared to Aritta, Kuehu was more dominating; not only scoring, but rebounding, assists, steals, and she had two blocks," said Fran Villarmia-Kahawai, former player and coach of 'Aiea High. "It's kind of scary that she's a sophomore. She'll be one of the best players in Hawai'i high school history.

"She took the first two trips down the floor, and no one was there to defend her," Villarmia-Kahawai said. "It looked too easy. She is definitely a woman among girls."

Villarmia-Kahawai also pointed out Kuehu's twin sister Shaena-Lyn, who scored 10 points with three rebounds, an assist and two steals.

"She was a tremendous factor," Villarmia-Kahawai said. "Without her there it would be a different story."

Kuehu's 16 first-quarter points is also a record for most points in the first quarter, breaking Azama's previous record of 14 against Kamehameha. Kuehu tied the record for field goals made in a game with 16, made by Scott in the game against Honoka'a.

Reach Leila Wai at lwai@honoluluadvertiser.com.