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Prep Football Preview Special
Kalani Takase | ScoringLiveMay 13, 2023, 6:02am
Fri, May 12, 2023 @ Moanalua [ 5:00 pm ]
SALT LAKE — Punahou ain't done yet.
Kahale Clini led three players in double-figures with 20 kills to will the third-ranked Buffanblu to a thrilling five-set win over No. 1 Moanalua in the semifinals of the New City Nissan/HHSAA Division I Boys Volleyball State Championships. The set scores were 25-22, 21-25, 20-25, 27-25 and 15-11.
Punahou will try for its 10th consecutive state title and 39th overall when it faces off against No. 2 Kamehameha, its rival from the Interscholastic League of Honolulu, in Saturday night's state final.
The Buffanblu were on the brink of seeing that streak come to end Friday night. They staved off a pair of match points for Na Menehune in the fourth set by closing out the set with a 6-1 run to send it to a deciding fifth set.
Moanalua held a 7-5 lead in set 5 after a kill by Justin Todd, but Punahou coach Rick Tune called a timeout and his team promptly responded with back-to-back points off of an Evan Porter kill piggybacked by an Elijah Smith service ace.
The score was tied at 10 before Clini put down a two-handed kill to put his team ahead for good. Kanalu Akana followed with an ace to make it a 12-10 cushion for the Buffanblu, who edged Na Menehune in another five-set thriller at last month's Clash of the Titans, hosted by Punahou.
Clini was keen to limit his service errors Friday, which was a point of emphasis following the previous meeting between the teams.
"I tried to make the least amount of errors from the service line because that kind of costed us a lot at our tournament," Clini said. "Same for our freshmen setter, Kanalu Akana, we still had to make sure both of us were keeping in our serves, because when we keep in our serves, this is what happens: we can get outcomes like this."
Moanalua cut it to 12-11 with a kill off the block by Kai Rodriguez, but Clini answered with a thunderous kill out of the middle that was assisted by Akana and Porter put down a kill from the left side to set-up match point.
Na Menehune used its final timeout trailing 14-11, but their ensuing attack — a Zachary Yewchuk attempt out of the middle — sailed wide left and out to end the match.
"I'm proud of them. They didn't give up, they just kept battling," Punahou coach Rick Tune said. "The message when we were down was, ‘Look, don't worry about winning and losing — it's this point right here, what are we gonna do? Compete like hell on this point, that's it."
Punahou finished off set 1 with a 4-1 run and appeared primed to take set 2 after it was up, 20-15. However, Moanalua rallied with an unlikely 10-1 run that was capped by a Rodriguez kill to stun the Buffanblu and even the match at two sets apiece.
Na Menehune finished off set 3 in similar fashion. They were fueled by a 6-2 run that was spurred by a Cody Bonilla kill from the right side to go up, 23-18, and eventually won the set, 25-20, to put Punahou's proverbial back against the wall.
Punahou held a slim 19-18 lead late in the fourth set, but saw Moanalua reel off six of the next eight points — including three kills by Todd from the left side — to set-up its first shot at match point.
That's when the Buffanblu dug their heels in.
Ian Kinney recorded one of his 14 kills on the ensuing point, Moanalua followed with an untimely hitting error before Clini put down a kill from the left side to tie it at 24. The teams exchanged the next two points before Kinney went cross-court with his kill off a back set by Smith to give Punahou set point, which Clini put away with an emphatic slam.
"This team has tons of heart. That second set was huge — took the wind out of our sails by losing that second set," Tune said. "We were up 21-17 — we should have won, put the nail in the coffin then done, right, and they didn't emotionally recover until probably, I don't know, midway through the fourth set, so this team's been through battles all year, all year."
It was the eighth time the Buffanblu were pushed to five sets this season; They are 6-2 in those matches.
"All we've done throughout this season is struggle in the very beginning. We love five-setters — this must have been like our 10th, at least — but we know how to deal with the pressure coming into the fifth set so it wasn't nothing new for us," Clini said. "We knew what was on the line and we kept fighting, giving hundred percent, that's all we could give."
After watching his team push Kamehameha to five sets on three consecutive nights for the ILH championship a week ago, Tune knew that his squad would not go quietly Friday night.
"We told them, ‘Look, every moment that we've gone through has prepared you for this moment right here,' and it did. You saw their composure and we have the heart of a champion — I'm telling you that right now — this team has the heart of a champion.; They never, ever give up," Tune said. "You gotta put the silver bullet through the middle of our head to take us out."
Clini took 45 swings and hit .267 for the match. He also tallied eight digs and two of Punahou's five aces on the night.
Porter recorded 14 kills on 31 swings and hit .258, while libero Matthew Chun notched a match-high 16 digs. Smith recorded 31 assists and 11 digs and Akana chipped in with 18 assists for the Buffanblu (13-5).
Todd totaled a match-high 22 kills on 51 swings (.255 kill percentage) and his fellow UH-commit Rodriguez posted 20 kills on 45 swings (.244). Todd also came up with 11 digs, second to Kaden Sato's dozen to lead Moanalua defensively. Setters Malu Wilcox and Aaron Matsumoto had 28 and 20 assists, respectively.
It was Moanalua's first five-set match and the first time it was pushed beyond the minimum three sets all season.
Na Menehune (15-1) were seeking their second appearance in the state championship match in as many seasons. They will play third-seeded Kamehameha-Hawaii for third place at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
First serve between Punahou and Kamehameha is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Cannon Activities Center on the campus of the BYU-Hawaii in Laie.
TOP-SEEDED KAMEHAMEHA SWEEPS PAST KS-HAWAII
Kyler Wade put down 17 kills to pace No. 1 Kamehameha to a sweep of No. 7 Kamehameha-Hawaii, 25-16, 25-15 and 25-17, in the late semifinal at Moanalua Friday night.
The ILH-champion Warriors (12-3) needed just 77 minutes to dispatch the BIIF-champion Warriors (14-2).
Kamehameha racked up 11 teams blocks to KS-Hawaii's four.
Kauhi Lewis had seven kills and the trio of Kullen Pua, Micah Wana and Kala Makaike added five kills apiece in the loss.
Micah Mahana chalked up 19 assists for KS-Hawaii, while his counterpart, Brayden Van Kuren, tallied 21 assists for Kamehameha.
The Kapalama Warriors will be playing in their first state final since 2013. Their last of five state championships came in 2011.
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