Chase for the Championship
Kamehameha, Punahou rematch set for state title


KAPALAMA HEIGHTS — For the 10th time in the Hawaii High School Athletic Association's 16-season history of the sport, eleven-time reigning champion Punahou will square off with Kamehameha for the state title.

To get there, the Warriors stuffed Oahu Interscholastic Association champ Kaiser, 9-4, while the Buffanblu ousted Big Island Interscholastic Federation winner Kamehameha-Hawaii, 18-4, in Friday's Stanford Carr Development, LLC./HHSAA Girls Water Polo State Championships semifinals at Kamehameha Schools Kapalama's Kalaniopuu Aquatic Center.

It will be the fifth consecutive year the two schools are playing for the koa trophy and fifth time this season the two Interscholastic League of Honolulu foes are meeting in the pool. Punahou won this year's earlier matchups with an average margin of victory of 7.25 goals.

On the season as a whole, the Buffanblu have an average point differential of plus-11.46, and they don't look to be slowing down after also having taken down Roosevelt, 15-5, in the quarterfinal round.

Dominance might be a kind word for what Punahou coach Ken Smith has been able to do with his program, which is currently on an undefeated streak of upwards of 130 games that dates back to the start of the 2008 season.

But what has seemingly been the case for now a whole decade's worth of seasons, for Kamehameha, it can all come down to one game at the end.

"We've been pretty gritty. They haven't been easy games for us, which is good because that's how you get better," first-year Kamehameha coach Anthony Cabrera said of his team's path through the state tournament. "If we're not playing tough games, we're not getting better. I'm hoping that means we're battle tested for tomorrow."

The Warriors handled Kapolei, 12-6, in their opening round matchup last Monday, but had to fend off a late run from Baldwin in a 12-8 win before stopping Kaiser in the semifinals.

While Punahou's victories over Kamehameha have been lopsided this season, the last two matchups — a 10-5 score on April 11 and 12-6 on April 18 for the ILH championship — saw the game tied up at halftime before the Buffanblu pulled away. 

"Last time we played them, we played three solid quarters. If we can put that fourth quarter together now — that's the tough part," Cabrera said. "It's going to be tough. They're the best for a reason."

Saturday's state title match is set to start at 6 p.m.

Kaiser and Kamehameha-Hawaii will play at 4:30 p.m. for third place.

Senior Lori Char led Warriors with four goals as Kamehameha stuffed Kaiser in Thursday's first semifinal matchup.

The Kamehameha defense held the speedy Cougars to just 12 shot attempts, but Kaiser still got on the scoreboard first at the 5:07 mark with Noelle Nakakura's short lob from inside five meters.

From there, the Warriors scored five unanswered scores, but Kaiser netted a pair of goals as Megan Kaneshiro found the back of the net on a free throw shot with two seconds left to keep the game close.

But Kamehameha, who put up 26 shots, kept steady and scored three more goals — all from Char — to seal the victory. 

"Just staying high on the lanes and working together," Char said of the Warriors success. "If one girl is pressing, to make sure you're the next person to get a fast breakaway. Just to be aware of everyone and be confident."

Kaiser goalkeeper Lindsey Fujimori had nine saves.

Unfortunately, for the Warriors from the Big Island, this game became lopsided fairly quick as the Buffanblu scored on the opening possession and jumped out to a 6-0 lead to end the first quarter.

Christina Hicks led the way with four goals while Josie Mobley and Dillyn Lietzke each netted a hat trick.

Nani Spaar scored a pair of goals to lead Kamehameha-Hawaii.

Reach Spencer Honda at [email protected].

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