On-Air Now
On-Air Now
Listen Live
, ,

Punahou pulls away from Kamehameha, 53-38, to stay unbeaten in ILH

By Wes Nakama

Slow starts and loss of focus are so “last year” for this season’s Punahou boys basketball team. A year older and more mature, the veteran Buff ‘n Blue showed their poise Tuesday in pulling away from visiting Kamehameha, 53-38, to improve to 3-0 in the ILH.

The victory sets up Thursday’s 6:30 p.m. showdown at two-time defending state champion Saint Louis, which also is 3-0.

When the Crusaders beat Punahou in last year’s first meeting, the Buff ‘n Blue couldn’t quite put it all together in a 42-35 defeat. But so far in convincing wins over Maryknoll (47-37), ‘Iolani (55-35) and Kamehameha, Punahou has looked like a team that is chasing a championship.

“I think historically with this squad in general, we kind of struggled in the early season but (now) we’re all really mature, mostly seniors in the starting lineup,” said senior James Taras, who scored a game-high 18 points Tuesday. “I think it just means we’re better at executing the game plan, better at managing close games, and also we really come together as a team and move the ball. And play defense.”


With the versatile 6-foot-5 Taras leading the way offensively inside and out, the Buff ‘n Blue led 13-5 after one period, 23-13 at halftime and went up, 34-18, on Dane Kellner’s putback with 2:06 remaining in the third period. Shyne Salvador then converted a three-point play to ignite a furious 16-4 Kamehameha rally capped by Kainoa Wade’s short bank shot to close it to 38-34 with 5:45 left in the game.

But after a timeout, Taras drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key and later made a layup with 2:36 remaining to push the lead to 43-34, and after Nahiku Nahale-a’s floater cut it to 43-36, Evan Porter hit a 3 from the left wing 16 seconds later and Taras swished the dagger 3 with 1:41 on the clock to make it 49-36.

“We battled, we finally knocked some shots down (in the rally),” Warriors coach Larry Park said. “They hit two 3’s in a row (late), and that was kind of it. But that’s what this league comes down to, execution in crucial spots.”

Punahou coach Darren Matsuda said solid defense and good shot selection have played a big role in the Buff ‘n Blue’s early success so far. 

“Right now, with legs and game planning and everything else, I think you really gotta rely on your defense,” Matsuda said. “We did that a little bit last year, but this year we’re a lot better. That’s what we wanted to really emphasize, and just being smart — taking good shots and working the ball. It’s a pretty senior-laden team, they’re pretty mature, and they’ve done a good job of sharing the ball, working for a good shot and understanding what is a good shot.”  

Matsuda said his staff and players will have little time to enjoy Tuesday’s victory, with Saint Louis looming less than 48 hours later.

“(The Crusaders) are a very tough team, a team with a lot of weapons,” Matsuda said. “They’re very physical, and what’s very underestimated about them is they play very good defense. They move their feet really well.”

Mahalo to these sponsors for proudly backing Hawai’i high school sports, enabling us to continue showcasing athletes and schools here in the 808. Your support makes it all possible.