Punahou's Tui Tuileta hammers down a spike attempt against Kamehameha-Hawaii. Brien Ing | SL
Evan Enriques put on yet another offensive display, racking up an amazing 42 kills, but that wasn't enough to beat Punahou's versatile attack, as the Buffanblu rallied past Kamehameha-Hawaii to win the New City Nissan Division I Boys Volleyball Championship, 23-25, 25-18, 23-25, 25-11; 15-13.
A balanced Buffanblu offense was led by Tui Tuileta with 20 kills, Nicholas Andrews with 16 kills, and Sean Gruebner with 15 kills. Gruebner also added 8 blocks.
"This is an unbelievable win. After being down two games to one, it took a lot of heart. We just pushed one point at a time." said Gruebner.
The first game was a closely contested one until Punahou pulled away to an 18-12 advantage midway through the set.
Down by 22-17 in the late stages, Kamehameha would go on a 7-0 run ignited by an Enriques kill to take a 24-22 lead. Punahou served out at 24-23 to give Kamehameha the first game.
Punahou would rebound, leading the entire way in the next set, including a 15-9 scoring run that featured two Micah Ma'a aces, and a Gruebner kill. The Buffanblu would win the game going away, 25-18.
The third game would be very similar to the first, with neither team was able to get much of an advantage, and the biggest margin by either team being 2 points.
Kamehameha's setter, Daniel Aina Jr., would injure his ankle late in game three with Kamehameha up, 23-21. The Warriors would pull the game out, 25-23, despite Aina's absence, and he later returned to the game, but he clearly wasn't the same player.
With a less one-hundred percent Aina playing a factor, momentum shifted to Punahou's way in a must-win fourth game.
Punahou's defense, now heavily focused on stopping Enriques, came up big as the Buffanlbu easily won game four, 25-11.
In stark contrast to the Warriors relying on Enriques as an offensive focal point, Punahou spread the wealth around, getting multiple kills from Tuileta, Gruebner and Kupono Fey in the set. Punahou head coach Rick Tune also altered his lineup by rotating his setters, Ma'a and Dylan Gerard, throughout the pivotal fourth set.
"Kamehameha really kept us on our toes. We just had to fight back. Everyone did great, the bench was on fire, and everyone just did their job." said Tuileta.
In the fifth and deciding set, Kamehameha took a 1-0 lead, but Punahou got the lead quickly back at 2-1 after Enriquez was blocked by Gruebner.
Then at 13-11, Kamehameha would tie the game at 13-all behind 2 Enriques' kills.
But down the stretch, it would be Punahou scoring the final two points, winning the Division I state championship in exhilarating fashion.
"For my boys to come back in the fourth set and really take it to them like that, and then to come back in the 5th set even when they made that late run, and then to close it out, that was real special to me and the boys." said Tune.
"Kamehameha-Hawaii is a class act. Coach Enriques really gets it. He teaches his kids about life, using volleyball as a vehicle." he added.
Evan Enriques would be named the tournament's most outstanding player, spiking home an amazing 111 kills during his three-game tourney run.
Kamehameha-Hawaii's Evan Enriques puts a kill attempt past the Punahou block.
Punahou players celebrate a Division I state title win over Kamehameha-Hawaii.
Punahou's Sean Gruebner celebrates a point scored against Kamehameha-Hawaii.