POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Dec 22, 2012
With preseason tournaments wrapping up, the defending state champions are on the verge of being just another team without a title.
Benson Tech (Ore.) wing Abdi Rashid Abdi picked up a loose ball and laid it in as the buzzer sounded, and the Techmen beat host Punahou 51-49 in the semifinals of the Punahou Basketball Invitational on Friday night.
Punahou, which also lost in the semifinals of the Radford tournament earlier this month, plays Wilson (also of Portland) in the third-place game tonight at 6.
“That would have been our first close win in a while,” Punahou coach Darren Matsuda said. “We really needed that. We knew it was going to be a tight game.”
Benson point guard Frank Norman milked the clock down to 8 seconds before driving the lane against Punahou’s defense. It was a pretty sound plan considering the Techmen had little trouble penetrating throughout the game, but Norman’s off-balance shot near the block went long.
It bounced from the rim to 6-foot-4 wingman Abdi on the other block with 2 seconds left. Abdi gave a little pump fake before laying it in as the buzzer sounded.
“I was so fortunate, I was going to the basket and it rolled right into my hand,” Abdi said. “I had a defender right on me but he didn’t know what time it was so I pump faked it and put it in. I was right under the clock, so I knew I had 2 seconds.”
Referees signaled that his effort was true while Punahou players pleaded for “no basket” and the Techmen swarmed Abdi like they had won the state title.
“You obviously want a better shot,” Benson coach Troy Berry said. “That wasn’t a very high percentage shot but we are happy with the win, especially against a well-coached team like that.”
The loss stung the Buffanblu, who never led in the fourth quarter but didn’t let the margin grow larger than four, either.
Dayton Watanabe and Nick Velasquez were the standouts for Punahou before Benson Tech slipped in the game-ending dagger, with Watanabe tying it on a 3-pointer from the corner with 1:10 left.
Velasquez made up for three misses with three steals in the fourth quarter, the last one that could have sealed the game but he couldn’t throw the ball inbounds while soaring over Benson Tech’s bench after swiping the ball along the sideline.
Watanabe led Punahou with 12 points and Kupono Fey added 10 while Velasquez scored eight.
Norman led Benson Tech with 12 and Jordan Ewell added 10. The Techmen left 6-foot-8 starter KJ Bosco home for “personal reasons” but they looked fine without him.
The Techmen play George Washington Carver (Ala.) in the tournament final tonight at 7:30, but they won’t forget the Buffanblu any time soon.
“That is one of the best teams we have played this season so far, if not the best,” Norman said. “They are going to be really good as the season goes on.”
G.W. Carver (Ala.) 61, Wilson (Ore.) 39
Jeremy Johnson led G.W. Carver with 15 points and Antony Jarrett added 12 as the Rams led by 21 points at halftime and beat the Trojans to advance to the final.
Punahou Boys Invitational
Kailua 43, Mililani 36
Hawaii Prep 50, Farrington 37
Maryknoll 57, King Kekaulike 50
Baldwin 53, Melbourne (Australia) 52
St. Francis 46, Punahou II 33
Konawaena 66, Campbell 28
Walter Wong Invitational
Saint Louis 41, Leilehua 36
Mililani 65, Damien 44
University 53, Castle 31
St. Francis 49, Pearl City 47