Punahou repeats as DI state champ Seabury Hall earns historic DII crown
• Photo gallery: Boys Volleyball D-I State Championship
By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
While Punahou is still on track to claim a "mythical" high school boys volleyball national championship, the Buffanblu left no doubt last night in winning Hawai'i's official state crown.
Joshua Taylor had a match-high 20 kills and Henry Cassiday added 10 kills as Punahou swept Kamehameha, 25-18, 25-20, 25-20, to capture its second straight New City Nissan State Championship.
A crowd of about 1,500 at McKinley's Student Council Gym watched the Buffanblu — ranked No. 1 in the nation by ESPN Rise — finish the regular and postseason at 23-0. The No. 10 Warriors ended at 19-5.
"It feels amazing, I'll never forget this season," said Taylor, a 6-foot-7 junior opposite. "Even when I'm an old person, I'll remember this as the most fun guys I've ever played volleyball with. They're special people and fantastic athletes."
Punahou certainly put on an impressive display, despite a scrappy Kamehameha team that refused to let the match evolve into a blowout.
The first set was tied at 10-10 before the Buffanblu scored three straight points on kills by Taylor and Cassiday, followed by Taylor Crabb's ace. The Warriors cut it to 14-12 on Christenson's solo block, but that was as close as they would get.
Punahou never trailed in Set 2, jumping out to an 8-3 lead and withstanding a Warriors run that closed it to 10-9. They stretched the lead to 16-10 and Kamehameha could not get closer than three points the rest of the way.
The third set was tied at 9-9 when the Warriors appeared to land an ace, but the call was reversed and Punahou led the rest of the way.
"You cannot let one play dictate the outcome of the match," Kamehameha coach Guy Kaniho said. "Especially since that wasn't even the halfway point (of the set). They just had too many weapons and everything was working for them — they established the outsides, they established the middles, they established the back row, they were serving bb's ... Hats off to them."
The Warriors closed it to 17-16 and 22-20, but the Buffanblu scored the final three points on a Taylor kill, a double block by Benjamin Lam and Cassiday, and a Cassiday kill.
Micah Christenson led Kamehameha with 17 kills, but had only two in the second set.
"Credit Punahou, because they were serving areas where it was moving our passers," Kaniho said. "We couldn't get into system."
Punahou elevated to No. 1 in the ESPN Rise Fab 50 after defeating some of the nation's top teams at the Best of the West Invitational at Poway, Calif., in March.
Less than a week after the Buffanblu returned, Kamehameha nearly knocked them off the No. 1 perch in a 25-14, 18-25, 26-24 squeaker at Punahou.
"That was not the prettiest match," Buffanblu coach Rick Tune said that night. "We need to take on challenges and play to win, instead of playing not to lose. There's a big difference."
Last night, Tune was much more satisfied.
"I can't complain," he said. "I think they just played the best match of the season. They were clicking on all facets — that's the best we've blocked, it was our best passing match, we served tough, we converted in transition. Every challenge that was put in front of them, they aspired to reach.
"And it's a good thing, because Kamehameha is a great team and they played one hell of a match. We had to play our best just to separate from them."
Taylor said the Buffanblu stayed focused throughout.
"We all had a common goal, we all knew what was on the line," he said. "We all came together, and we gave it something extra."
'Iolani def. Waiākea 21-25, 25-15, 15-12
'Iolani: Tyler Tanaka 10
Waiākea: Evan La Rochelle 10
Kamehameha-Hawai'i def. Baldwin 25-12, 25-19
KS-Hawai'i: Keoni Bailado 9
Baldwin: TK Loewen 4
Leilehua def. Kalani 21-25, 25-11, 17-15
Leilehua: Brock Paikai 14
Kalani: Brook Parker 8
Read his blog on high school sports at http://preptalk.honadvblogs.com.