Punahou takes DI state title
• Photo gallery: HHSAA Boys Volleyball State Championship
By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
Taking care of business one year in the making, Punahou swept Kamehameha 25-11, 25-19, 25-21 last night to win the New City Nissan/HHSAA Boys Volleyball State Championship for the fourth time in five seasons.
An overflow crowd of about 2,000 at McKinley's Student Council Gym watched the Buffanblu finish the regular and postseason at 20-1 and gain redemption after last year's stunning upset loss to 'Iolani in the state title match.
"It's a different story this year," said McKibbin, a 6-foot-6 senior opposite who was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player and will play at the University of Southern California next season. "All of the guys wanted this so badly."
That was apparent early.
Punahou jumped out to a 5-0 lead to open the match and maintained control throughout the first set, stretching it to 9-3, 11-4 and 19-8. Four Kamehameha errors then helped the Buffanblu eventually close it out on a kill by 6-foot-7 sophomore Joshua Taylor.
Punahou hit at a sizzling .458 percentage in the first set.
The Warriors (19-4) took a 3-0 lead in the second set, but Punahou responded with an 8-1 run and eventually broke a 15-15 tie with a 10-4 surge led by Taylor's four kills.
Kamehameha had the third set tied at 18-18, but again the Buffanblu finished strong, outscoring the Warriors 7-3 to end the match.
"(The Warriors) are a scrappy team, and they play with a lot of heart," Punahou coach Rick Tune said. "They have a great program, and they're going to scratch to the end."
Taylor finished with a match-high 16 kills in 20 attempts with only two hitting errors, for a torrid .700 percentage. The Buffanblu hit .310 overall and had 42 digs to Kamehameha's 23.
"We had to play a perfect match just to keep up with them," Warriors coach Guy Kaniho said. "If it were anyone else across the net, we'd probably come out victorious. But they were hitting at us from all angles and their hitters were finding all the open seams."
The accuracy did not come by accident.
While the Buffanblu were sweeping Kamehameha-Hawai'i in Friday's semifinals at McKinley, assistant coach Stewart Chong was at Radford scouting Kamehameha's semifinal victory over Roosevelt.
"That's part of our preparation," Tune said. "We have a lot of respect for (the Warriors), and knowing what's coming always helps."
But Tune and McKibbin said the championship mostly was a result of lessons learned through last year's state title loss and also a midseason upset defeat — again at the hands of 'Iolani, at home.
"The loss this year sparked us, too, as far as wanting to win," McKibbin said. "Last year was difficult because we hadn't lost a match all year until the end. This year's was a hard loss, too, but it humbled us and made us want to work twice as hard."
Tune said watching the maturation process was just as satisfying as the championship itself.
"We have a senior, Jarrett Chang, who got hurt (Friday) but came back and did a great job again," Tune said. "He's been there for us, he's our first sub at five different positions. That's been a big part of it, guys being unselfish and ready to step in ...
"We went through a lot of personal things this year, but the guys grew up as people, each and every individual. The individual growth, the unselfishness — that's what wins state titles."