Punahou back on top of state hoops, 61-39
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By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Wes Nakama
Catapulted by its suffocating full-court press and sophomore Shawna-Lei Kuehu's record-breaking 37-point performance, Punahou blitzed past Roosevelt, 61-39, last night to win its third Hawaiian Airlines/HHSAA Girls Basketball Championship in four years.
A vocal Stan Sheriff Center crowd of 3,646 watched in amazement as Kuehu, a 5-foot-10 post, scored 11 points in the first three minutes, 16 in the first period, 25 in the half and 37 by the end of the third quarter. That broke the previous state tournament record of 35 points shared by Maryknoll's Sheila Scott (1987), Iolani's Melanie Azama (1990), Kohala's Annette Marquez (1991) and 'Aiea's Aritta Lane (2001). None of those previous marks, however, came in the championship game.
"Shawna was just in a zone tonight," Punahou coach Mike Taylor said. "She took what the defense gave us, and she wasn't thinking too much, she was just making plays."
The Buffanblu (12-2) broke out of the gates fast, jumping out to a 15-2 lead in the first 3 1/2 minutes. They did it behind a trapping 1-2-2 full-court press that resulted in six turnovers, helping give Kuehu and twin sister Shaena-Lyn several transition opportunities in the post.
The Kuehus scored all 20 of Punahou's first-period points as the Buffanblu led by 10 entering the second. The Rough Riders (16-2) had 10 turnovers in the first quarter and 18 at the half, when they trailed 37-14. Of the 18 turnovers, only eight were steals, so the rest were errant passes out of bounds or traveling calls.
"When you look at (the turnovers), it was more us making unforced errors," Roosevelt coach Bobby Keanini said. "Instead of them making steals, we would throw the ball away with passes that didn't even touch people. But that's a credit to (the Buffanblu), that's a credit to what they do. They keep swarming, and they play great defense. We played better in the second half, but those first two quarters were the death of us."
Taylor said he was wary of the Rough Riders' scoring ability, so Punahou's plan was to be the aggressor.
"They're really talented, so we wanted to be relentless and force them to make quick decisions," Taylor said. "We did that, and good things happened."
Shawna-Lei Kuehu stayed on her roll in the third period, scoring on quick turnaround or pull-up jumpers, layups and free throws. For the game, she was 16 of 23 (69.6 percent) from the field, 5 of 7 (71.4 percent) from the line, to go with seven rebounds, three steals and two blocks.
"She just had it tonight, she was on," Keanini said. "We pushed her off the box to where we wanted her, about 12-15 feet, and she still made the shot anyway. She was hot."
Kuehu said she felt good in the afternoon shootaround at Punahou, but never really dreamed of a 37-point night.
"My teammates just told me to bring my 'A' game, and I felt confident," Kuehu said.
Shaena-Lyn Kuehu finished with 10 points, three rebounds and two steals. The twins were among the few key returnees from last year's title team, which graduated Advertiser State Player of the Year Shanna-Lei Dacanay, fellow four-year letterman Christine Takara and three-year letterman Tessa Sonobe, among other seniors.
"Our goal was to win the state championship again, but I knew (in February) the only way that would happen was if the girls stayed together and believed in one another," Taylor said. "There were some bumps in the road — just like in any other season — but to the girls' credit, they kept fighting and kept working."
Shawna-Lei Kuehu said she and her teammates were believers from the beginning.
"Even knowing we lost some key seniors, nobody put their head down," she said. "Everybody knew we just had to step up and play our game, and that's exactly what we did."
Reach Wes Nakama at firstname.lastname@example.org.