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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, December 7, 2007

Kuehu returns to spark Punahou

By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer

Punahou School senior Shawna-Lei Kuehu, the most highly recruited girls basketball prospect to come out of Hawai'i, played her first game in almost 19 months last night and basically showed no signs of rust.

Kuehu, a 5-foot-10 forward, scored 13 points, grabbed three rebounds and made three steals in about 16 minutes of action as the Buffanblu cruised past McKinley, 75-42, in the opening round of the Reebok McKinley Black and Gold Tournament.

Punahou will play Farrington today at 4 p.m. at McKinley's Student Council Gym.

It was a long wait for Kuehu, who scored a record 37 points in the 2006 state championship game but missed all of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee. She was cleared to play on Nov. 28 but sat out the Buffanblu's first nonleague games against Kalani and Radford.

"The hardest part was just sitting and watching, because I had to sit and watch all last year, game after game," said Kuehu, who has signed a national letter of intent with the University of California. "The reason it was not too hard playing tonight is because in practice everybody pushes full-on, so it's like playing in a real game."

Kuehu did not start but entered the game after about two minutes and had an immediate impact, scoring on a short banker with 5:07 remaining in the first period to put Punahou up, 7-0. She then hit a short jumper in the lane two minutes later to make it 13-1. Her 8-foot turnaround jumper from a tough angle on the right baseline opened the second quarter scoring and gave the Buffanblu a 20-1 lead.

"She's still not full speed, but she is a warrior and she understands the game so well," said Punahou coach Mike Taylor, whose team lost at Kalani, 54-48, on Nov. 30 before bouncing back with a victory over Radford. "She knows when to turn on the jets, she knows angles."

Kuehu, playing with a large brace on her left leg, finished the first half with 10 points as the Buffanblu took a 41-19 lead into the locker room. She scored three more points in the third quarter before resting in the fourth.

Kuehu's twin sister, Shaena-Lyn, also missed last season with a torn ACL but played in the first two games this season. She also finished with 13 points last night.

Janelle Nomura added 13 points and four assists for Punahou.

Kylie Sato led the Tigers with 12 points.

Read Wes Nakama's blog on prep sports at http://blogs.honoluluadvertiser.com

Reach Wes Nakama at wnakama@honoluluadvertiser.com.