HHSAA Girls Water Polo
Punahou sinks Kamehameha for 13th-straight state title


  



KAPALAMA HEIGHTS—After a two-year pause, the Punahou reclaimed their spot on top the mountain.

The Buffanblu (14-0 overall) win their 13th straight Stanford Carr Development/HHSAA Girls Water Polo Championship after sinking their Interscholastic League of Honolulu rival Kamehameha-Kapalama, 11-3 at Kamehameha's Kalaniopuu Aquatic Center Saturday.

Kaylee Ogawa, who scored a total of four goals in their three regular season matchups against the Warriors (10-5 overall), led the way with five in the title game.

"It's an amazing feeling. We've been training super hard this season. It really paid off, especially for moments like these," Ogawa said, who was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.

Pono Gacutan and Allison Kauahi each added three goals.

"It really means a lot. Freshman year, we were on the varsity team. Being able to actually get into the pool and win it for our team was memorable and it was a nice send off," Gacutan added.

This is the first state tournament since 2019 since the past two years were canceled due to COVID-19.

"It felt awesome, it was great was to get them back in the pool," Kamehameha coach Anthony Cabrera.

Ken Smith, who has spent nearly half a century coaching water polo at Punahou, celebrated in the water with his team.

"For the seniors, this is the first state final they ever played in. So for them to persevere and to be on a great team their freshman year, and them for sit out two years to keep their enthusiasm and their perseverance, they really pulled together the past four weeks of the season and did a lot of things behind the scenes that really made us come together. It's a great group of seniors that's hard to replace," Smith remarked.

Ogawa found the left corner at the 5:22 mark in the first quarter to get the Buffanblu on the scoreboard.

Leianaala Wong grabbed Reaves Dayton's miss, put it back in to tie the game at 1.

Punahou reclaimed the lead after Ogawa dumped it over into the left corner to make it, 2-1. Gacutan got in the score sheet after converting an assist from Colette Jones.

"We focus on leaning on each other and letting the play, make itself happen. We have really good ball control and we work hard in morning practices. As a team, we bonded together and we played as a team and it was not individual," Gacutan said.

Dayton scored off a penalty shot at the 2:13 mark, but Gacutan lobbed another goal in with 54 seconds left in the first quarter for a 4-2 lead.

"I think they had those two goal turnarounds and had a good attempt and our goalie blocked it and we were able to capitalize," Smith said.

All-Tournament Team

Pono Gacutan, Punahou

Emma Luna, Punahou

Kohia Rego, KS-Kapalama

Leinaala Wong, KS-Kapalama

Jordyn Nishimura, KS-Kapalama

Kristin Johnson, Kaiser

Goalkeeper:

Reia Kimi, Punahou


Most Outstanding Player:

Kaylee Ogawa, Punahou

After the Warriors were denied twice by Reia Kim, Dayton found the net for the second time to trail, 4-3, but that was the final goal Kamehameha would score for the game.

"I don't think if anything turned so much. Punahou just executed really, really well," Cabrera said. "I'm really proud of the girls, not just the game, but everyday in practice has been top-notch. I couldn't be anymore proud of a group of girls."

"I think that was the thing that was most impressive is to be able to not have them score any goals in the whole second half. We had pretty close games with them the whole season, but we worked on our defense and transition game, I think that played a big part of our success," Smith said.

Kamehameha had seven shot attempts in the second half, but at least three went off the post and four were denied by Kim.

"She's gotten better and better. We worked a lot on her passing and her passing is good tonight and she's just a ninth grader. She's a gift and to have a ninth grader playing in a state final and playing that well is a pretty good deal," Smith said.

Ogawa stole the ball and was all alone in transition to nail another goal for the left side and scored her second goal of the second half to extend the lead, 8-3.

"I think that we tried do our best in the second half and maintain our energy that we had to start the game," Ogawa said of the second-half shutout.

"We tried to wear them down a little bit, it's hard against a good team like that because they have good swimmers and well-coached," Smith said.

Kauahi scored all three of her goals in the second half. Her first goal came with 42 seconds left in the third and converted a penalty shot and an assist from Ogawa for the finishing touches.

All six seniors were in the pool for the final moment.

Four of the Warriors' five losses on the season came at the hands of the Buffanblu. Both teams have met 11 times in the state title game since 2004.

Kamehameha's last state title was in 2006.



Reach Brandon Ching at [email protected].




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