Punahou made sure that its fifth straight championship run wouldn't need a five-set effort.
The Buffanblu defeated Moanalua in straight sets in the New City Nissan/Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division I Boys Volleyball Championships at the Neal Blaisdell Center to capture their 34th overall state title Friday night.
The defending champions pulled away in the first two sets and rallied to win game three in extra points to finish their season with a 18-1 mark. Set scores were 25-20, 25-17 and 27-25.
In the previous three state championship games, Punahou built up a two sets to none lead before dropping a close one in the third set to win it four games. This year's Punahou team bucked the trend and denied Moanalua the opportunity to win a set in its first title game appearance.
The stakes weren't as high on the Buffanblu bench, but fans in the arena were treated to a duel between Punahou's Wil Stanley and Moanalua's Austin Matautia in the final moments, both of which finished with 22 kills.
"The past state tournaments we lost the third set the last three years so this year we wanted to stop that and get in the third," said Stanley, who was named the tournament's most outstanding player. "I talked to my setters and they told me they had full confidence setting me every ball."
After Punahou got back-to-back kills to tie things up at 21 each in the third set, Matautia fired with a kill off a block and a kill off an overpass to put Na Menehune up by two. Stanley came firing back with a quick pass from DJ McInerny from the left side.
Matautia, who will play for the University of Hawaii, answered with a kill from the right side to give Moanalua a 24-22 lead. Stanley, who is a four-year varsity player, stepped up to the plate and got a kill from the right side and a kill off a set from libero Kelsey Yogi to tie things up at 24-all.
Ryan Wilcox put Punahou ahead for the first time of the game since the Buffanblu led 15-14, but Moanalua got it right back after a service error. Stanley got it going again thanks to a set from Todd Gruebner and the Buffanblu was able to close it out after Matautia's attack went long.
"We gave it our all, the boys did an incredible job," said Moanalua coach Alan Cabanting. "That's a tough team. Tonight Punahou was just a better team. We didn't execute when we had the opportunities to execute."
Punahou setters DJ McInerny and Todd Gruebner were as efficient as ever as they combined for 48 assists and gave hitters swings from all over the court.
"We had a game plan going and they made some great choices," said Punahou coach Rick Tune. "They were consistent not only in setting the right set, but setting up their next set, which I think is a big step in the setter evolution."
Akahi Troske was a force in the middle, hitting .769 for 11 kills with one block. Sophomore Ryan Wilcox also had 11 kills as he got majority of his points from the back row. Kanai Akana and Carlton Bradley each chipped in five kills and Ethan Siegfried added three more to round out the Buffanblu hitters.
The opening points of the firs two sets were a back and forth battle before Punahou began to pull away in each one.
In the first set, Moanalua fought back to tie it at 12-all before the Buffanblu ripped off four straight points to go up 16-12. A service error gave the ball back to Na Menehune, but two straight kills by Stanley put Punahou ahead 18-13. The Buffanblu was able to maintain that cushion the rest of the way and won game one, 25-20.
"We're patient. We just kept executing and thats how we got it done," said Tune. "We didn't really deviate from our game plan the whole match. we just tightened our execution in different moments."
The second set was even more decisive. A 5-0 run midway through game two effectively put it out of reach for Moanalua as Punahou stormed out to win, 25-17.
Other than Matautia, Na Menehune was out of offensive weapons. Nalu Demello was the next highest man with eight kills. Seyj Engleman added three kills and Justen Fong, Caleb Casinas and setter Zackary Miyamoto were limited to just one each.
Both teams will play at Mililani on Tuesday night.
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