No. 1 seed Punahou rolls past Pearl City Waiākea sweeps Baldwin
by Stanley Lee
Advertiser Staff Writer
For a while, Pearl City led defending state champion Punahou.
After winning the first set, Punahou started its reserves in the second and they played with some expected nerves. Some adjustments and words of encouragement pacified those jitters, and the top-seeded Buffanblu ended up showing their depth in a 25-13, 25-18, 25-17 win over Pearl City in last night's quarterfinals of the New City Nissan Division I Boys Volleyball State Championships at McKinley.
The Buffanblu (21-0) play Waiākea in a semifinal game at McKinley today at 7 p.m.
Sean Gruebner had seven kills and Alvin Kwok and Taylor Crabb had five each for Punahou, which got at least one kill from 11 players.
"They did exactly what we expected them to do," Punahou coach Rick Tune said. "Pearl City is a good team, I'm not taking anything away from what they brought to the court. They're a really good team, well-coached team, they play with a lot of heart, they're very gritty, but you know what, so are our guys. No. 1 through 16, we don't pull a guy up on our roster unless we have confidence we can put them in the game. Otherwise there's no point.
"Tonight showed we have confidence in 1 through 16 and if we need them at any time in the tournament, they're ready to go."
Gruebner, who started in Set 2, said the Buffanblu played well and were able to block and execute. He said the team's captains also encouraged the players on the court.
Down 12-9 in Set 2, Kekai Nu'uhiwa served six straight points to help the Buffanblu take the lead. He had two aces and his jump serves threw off the Chargers' passing. Gruebner had three kills to help Punahou close out Set 2. Most of the players on the court did not have state tournament experience.
Set 3 was tied at 12 before Punahou's block took form.
"I told them we don't have to do anything special, (but) you need to play with a little more passion and start competing instead of waiting for the action to come to you," Tune said.
Dominique Johnson had seven kills and Bradley Rodrigues had five kills for the Chargers (14-4).
"I told our boys to make sure we focus on our passing and when we go up to swing away, don't be afraid of the block," Pearl City coach Chris Kaneko said.