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Prep Football Preview Special
Prep Football Preview
Game of the Week
Kalani Takase | ScoringLiveJanuary 11, 2020, 7:13am
Fri, Jan 10, 2020 @ Iolani
ALA WAI — Allie Lam scored the game-winning goal just seconds before the final whistle to lift top-ranked Punahou to a thrilling 2-1 win over No. 9 Iolani Friday on a windy and rainy afternoon at Kozuki Stadium.
The Buffanblu improved to 6-0-1 on the season with 19 points to solidify their ownership of first place in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu's Division I standings. They lead second-place Kamehameha (4-0-1, 13 points) by six points and third-place PAC-5 (4-3, 12) by seven points.
The Raiders have dropped two of their last three games to fall to 3-2-1 with 10 points in last place.
Punahou opened the scoring in the sixtth minute — when Paris Sellers put away a ball that was mishandled by the Iolani goalkeeper — and played with a lead the rest of the way.
The score held until Kelsey Wong netted the equalizer for Iolani in the 78th minute. The senior played outside-back for most of the game, but moved up top in the final minutes and made her mark soon after. Wong slotted a low shot that got past both a Punahou defender and goalkeeper Tiani Wayton and just snuck inside the left post.
Momentum was almost entirely with the Raiders; a hard-fought tie and the one point to go with it seemed within grasp.
The Buffanblu, instead of dropping their shoulders from the gut punch, regrouped — quickly — and delivered the final blow with Lam's game-winner from about 20 yards out.
"I knew that we had to keep the pressure up, we had to get another one (goal) — a tie is not OK, we have to come out with a win — and so the pressure was up, our defense was pressing up," Lam recalled.
It was Sellers who sent the pass to Lam just before the goal.
"Paris got the ball and I was calling for it and she had played an excellent ball over the top to me and I knew that I had to beat the defender and so I tried to get the step on her and then keep myself composed — I tend to get overexcited sometimes — but I was able to keep myself composed in the finish," said Lam, a junior forward.
Sellers was thrilled, but not all that surprised with the frantic finish, given the team's work ethic and central focus on one goal.
"I mean, this team works so hard every single practice and we said it before the game, I don't think anyone's wanted something so bad as much as our team wants to get that state berth, so to have Allie Lam with that composure up top was truly amazing, she's incredible," said Sellers, a senior forward.
Lam's goal — her second of the season — came a mere minute or two after the equalizer, but about four or five after she appeared to give her team a two-goal lead. Lam received a pass in the 18-yard box and put a shot away into the left side of the goal, but the assistant referee flagged her for being offsides.
"It obviously hurt, but I got that opportunity and that meant that I could get another one and then when (Iolani) hit that equalizer my heart sank a little, like, it was really tough, but immediately every player on the field and on the bench was like, ‘come on, girls, we gotta go! There's still time!' Then Paris played me an excellent ball through and I was able to finish."
Punahou coach Shelley Izuno credited Lam's ability to bounce back from the offsides call.
"She's a really technical, intelligent player. She's one of those players that might not score all the goals, but she does things all the time that are just amazing, so it doesn't surprise me that she actually put it in. With a lot of pressure on, of course it's hard to make that goal."
Izuno said Friday's game and the way her team fought until the final whistle is befitting of its identity.
"I think it just speaks to what I told you earlier about them believing in each other and just the selfless — like, it was, of course, it's all in their face right (after allowing the equalizer), it hurts, you can't deny that — but not quitting; that's exactly their personality and that's what it's been until now, like that was them," Izuno said. "If you had to describe them, it was that: just not quitting."
It's an attitude that the entire team has embraced, one that has been forged through a two-year state tournament drought.
"I think it's not only composure, but we have heart and to be able to push through, it's something that's hard — you can't teach it, you know? It's a ‘want,' you can't teach it to a team — but we're so close this year and we all want it, so that definitely showed today for not giving up and pushing through," Sellers said.
Punahou has won its last two games since a scoreless tie against Kamehameha on Dec. 16.
"This game, this game was big to begin with. You know, tying Kamehameha, we didn't get those three points, so winning this game was really important for us to finish first, which is our goal," Izuno said.
The Buffanblu will have seven days off until their next game on Jan. 18 against PAC-5.
The Raiders will host Sacred Hearts Wednesday.
Punahou and Iolani close out the 10-game ILH season against each other on Jan. 24 at Alexander Field.
The two teams with the most points in the final standings will qualify for next month's state tournament.
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