Punahou is blessed with physical talent, but focus was perhaps its greatest attribute last night.
The top-ranked Buffanblu turned in a business-like performance in a 25-17, 25-18 victory over No. 4 Hawaii Baptist Academy before a lively crowd on hand for the Eagles’ annual “Spike Nite” at Dan Liu gym.
“We’re a lot more even-keeled right now than we were in the beginning of the season,” Punahou head coach Rick Tune said. “We’re showing a lot more maturity as we prepare and take the court and we just continue to develop and evolve.”
Punahou improved to 12-0 in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu with two regular-season matches left next week. HBA fell to 8-3.
Freshman outside hitter Larry Tuileta led a balanced Punahou attack with 10 kills, seven coming in the second game.
“He’s been on fire every game we’ve played,” said senior setter Tyler Kubota. “As a freshman, normally you’d try to stay away from them, but he’s different; you trust him totally.”
Where Tuileta’s career is just starting, Kubota took a step toward his future this week in signing with UC San Diego. But he kept his attention on the moment last night in running an efficient offense and serving three aces in the second game. The last two came in succession late in the match as the Buffanblu pulled away after the Eagles had closed to 20-17.
“All I wanted to do was finish that game, because they had a lot of momentum, and if they could get some sideouts we might be in trouble,” Kubota said. “I just wanted to get a small run at least and finish that game.”
Kubota said the approach Tune spoke of has been a point of emphasis as the Buffanblu head toward the postseason.
“The other day we had a talk about keeping a level head during games, not getting too high, not getting to low,” he said. “And I think we really applied that well, today especially.”
Punahou’s size at the net helped the Buffanblu race out to a 9-3 lead in the first game, with Nick Andrews and Benjamin Lam teaming on blocks highlighting a six-point run.
The Buffanblu maintained a comfortable lead throughout the game and jumped ahead 9-2 in the second. HBA settled down and chipped away to close to 16-14 on a kill by Chad Barretta, energizing the crowd and forcing Punahou to take its first timeout of the match.
The Eagles were within 19-17 when Michael Fisher put down the last of his nine kills. But Tuileta answered with his 10th and Kubota fueled a four-point surge from the service line to put the game away.
Even with the loss, HBA coach Teoni Obrey sees the experience paying dividends down the line for the Eagles, who lead the ILH Division II standings.
“This is huge for us,” Obrey said. “This is a young group; we only return two starters from last year. This is kind of a humbling experience and you learn to regroup and move on. And I think they will.”
Academy of the Pacific def. University 25-20, 25-20
Maryknoll def. Mid-Pacific 25-16, 25-15
‘Iolani def. Saint Louis 25-21, 25-14
OIA RED EAST SOFTBALL
Castle 11, Kailua 5
Leisha Liilii went 3-for-4 with a homer and drove in three as the Knights beat the Surfriders.
Shealee Koki, Destiny Chang (4) and Sharla Kumai-Farrell. Leisha Liilii and Brooke Kaululaau. W—Liilii. L—Koki.
Leading hitters—Kail: Toni Damo-Agaoili 2-4, 3 RBIs; Jayna Hanawahine 3b. Cas: Brittany Hawn 2-4, HR; Liilii 3-4, HR, 3 RBIs; Keisha Dacosin 2-3, HR, 4 RBIs; Kaululaau 2-3.