Posted: February 26, 2012 - 1:35am
Punahou rallies past Kahuku to win Division I crown
"Especially for me and DeForest (Buckner) this was our last chance (as seniors) to win the championship, and I told him before the fourth quarter, this is it and we got to put everything out." said Johnson.
And Punahou did just that in the final stanza, surging to a 20-10 advantage over the final eight minutes to rally past Kahuku, 59-52, to claim the Division I boys basketball title of the Hawaiian Airlines/HHSAA Boys Basketball Championships at Blaisdell Arena.
Leading the way was Johnson, who poured in 13 points during the quarter, highlighted by a bank shot from about 3 feet off of a beautiful feed from point guard Jordan Tanuvasa, to bring the Buffs to within a point. Johnson was also fouled on the play, and would sink the ensuing free throw to tie the game at 44-44 with 5:49 to play.
"It's my teammates. My teammates set me up. All my points came off assists... I can't take no credit for that, just I love my teammates. They helped me out the whole time and to the finish." said Johnson, who finished with a game-high 22 points to go along with 5 rebounds.
Punahou head coach Darren Matsuda spoke about the performance of his 6-6 forward. "Malik's a gamer. Malik's played with me for a long time and he wanted this so bad. He just stepped up to the challenge and played really well. Very aggressive, took good shots, played a perfect game."
Having a relatively quiet night was Buckner, who looked to be a focal point of Kahuku's strategy defensively.
But following a Kahuku turnover, the 6-7 post would get his, and perhaps Punahou's, biggest bucket of the night, a jumper at point-blank range following an offensive board, to give Buffablu a 46-44 advantage at the 5:17 mark, their first of the game.
"DeForest has always been our anchor. Today, they laid it hard on him. They pushed him off the ball. They put a lot of guard pressure on us. He was frustrated at times but he came back into focus by the fourth quarter when we really needed him." added Matsuda.
And with Kahuku's focus on Buckner and a cold-shooting night by the usually dead-eye Nick Velasquez (2-of-8 FGs), Punahou would rely on their bench for energy and production.
Enter Kupono Fey.
The 6-4 forward came off the bench midway through the first period and would provide instant offense for the Buffanblu, scoring 4 points, grabbing 3 boards, dishing out 2 assists and adding one block for good measure.
Matsuda remarked, "Kupono is always in their first. With five other starters, Kupono is just as good as anyone else on this team. All year he's been doing that until he got hurt. Then he came back and got back in and played the exact same way."
In all, the Punahou bench contributed 21 points, with Fey leading the way with 8.
But for much of the contest, the ebb-and-flow of the game seemed to favor Kahuku, albeit by the slimmest of margins.
Led by guards Kawehena Johnson and Mason Kuali'i-Moe, the Red Raiders just seemed to hit key baskets at the right moment to push the lead just beyond the reach of Punahou, leading 28-25 at halftime, and 42-39 after three quarters.
And even as Punahou surged into the lead in the 4th, as if on cue, the Red Raiders would level the score one last time at 48-48, on an Evan Ramirez basket with 4:01 left in the contest.
Momentum though, would decisively swing in the Buffanblu's favor the rest of the way.
Coming out of a timeout, Punahou stretched the lead to 50-48 on two Velasquez free-throws and increased that margin to four on a jumper by Malik Johnson with 2:13 to play.
Reserve guard Matthew Taniguchi would head to line six times over an 11-second span, and would calmly make his first three attempts to extend the cushion to 55-48 with just over 46 seconds to play.
Kahuku would trim the margin to 55-49, hitting the second of two attempts with 33 seconds on the clock, but Punahou's Johnson would make it all but academic, hitting four consecutive makes from the charity stripe to push the lead to double digits.
Devalio Motuga's three-point basket in the dying moments trimmed the final margin to 59-52, and as the buzzer sounded, the Buffanblu celebration was in full swing.
"It wasn't our best game." said Matsuda. "We didn't shoot the ball very well and we didn't execute that well in the first two quarters. One of the things that we talked about is trying to stay in the moment. Between the third and fourth quarter, we told our kids 'hey, this is our last 8 minutes together, we have a lot of seniors and let's play it our way. We were down by three at the time I think and we just started playing the way we know how to play.' "
Punahou shot the ball extremely well during the second half, hitting a torrid 11-of-18 (61.1%) from the field. Kahuku held the Buffanblu to a 9-of-23 (39.1%) clip in the first two quarters.
"They played outstanding. Excellent Defense. I thought Kawehena Johnson and Mason (Kuali'i-Moe) were shooting the heck out of the ball. They were very efficient. They gave us everything they had." said Matsuda.
The duo of Kawe Johnson and Kuali'i-Moe combined for 28 points, including five-of-eleven three-pointers, to lead the way for Kahuku.
Buckner finished the night with 10 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks and was named Co-Most Outstanding Player for the tournament along with teammate Malik Johnson.
DIVISION I ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM (as selected by HHSAA staff and media)
DeForest Buckner, Punahou
Shaun Kagawa, Kamehameha-Hawai'i
Mason Kuali'i-Moe, Kahuku
Kawe Johnson, Kahuku
Malik Johnson, Punahou
Co-Most Outstanding Players: DeForest Buckner and Malik Johnson, Punahou
February 26, 2012
Malik Johnson, runner in the lane off of pass from DeForest Buckner.
> more video highlights
Punahou forward Malik Johnson puts up a shot over Kahuku's Sam Ching. Greg Yamamoto | SL
Punahou's Kupono Fey drives past Kahuku's Evan Ramirez. Aaliyah Birgado-Ormita | Leilehua HS
Kahuku's Kawehena Johnson drives past Punahou's Kawehena Johnson in the first half. Eugene Tanner | SL
Punahou players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Division I state title. Greg Yamamoto | SL
Punahou's DeForest Buckner puts up a shot attempt over Kahuku's Sam Ching. Aaliyah Birgado-Ormita | Leilehua HS