KEAAU » Kamehameha-Hawaii’s stellar season came to a crashing halt into the wall that was Punahou’s Benjamin Lam.
The 6-foot-5 senior middle blocker had his hands on just about everything at the net as top-seeded Punahou denied the Big Island Interscholastic Federation’s last hope, 25-20, 25-16, 25-20 in the semifinals of the New City Nissan/HHSAA Boys Volleyball State Championships last night at Keaau High School.
Punahou plays Interscholastic League of Honolulu rival Kamehameha today at 5 p.m. for a chance at a three-peat under coach Rick Tune and the school’s sixth title in seven years.
"We’re excited to be here, it’s what we work all season to do," Tune said. "We’re just lucky to be fortunate enough to be here the last six years, seven years. And Hilo is a great place to play."
The Buffanblu (21-0) overcame a sluggish start to outperform the young Warriors (14-5) in all phases, but most notably just above the tape. Punahou out-blocked the home island Warriors 9-0 and affected plenty of other swings, thanks largely to the USC-bound Lam, who had 12 kills on .556 hitting and seven blocks.
"Blocks were key for us; they’ve got some good hitters up there," Lam said. "It was just reading the setter’s hands, mostly, and staying patient."
The Buffanblu struggled early and the Warriors capitalized with a 10-4 lead in Game 1, forcing Tune to call a timeout. But the two-time defending champs regained their composure, went ahead at 20-19, and KS-Hawaii wouldn’t hold a serious lead again. Punahou had few other problems in hitting .422 to KS-Hawaii’s .105.
KS-Hawaii roused itself late in the match with cheers of "Imua!," showing heart that had Tune convinced the Big Island Warriors would be a force in years to come.
"We showed our youth, and they’ve got their experience," KS-Hawaii co-coach Sam Thomas said. "We’re still proud of this team. They worked their butts off."
With Punahou up 23-18 in Game 3, the match was delayed for about 15 minutes over a disputed Warriors timeout and subsequent protest filed by KS-Hawaii.
After play resumed, Punahou ended the suspense on a kill by Brandon Pitzer and an ace.
Daniel Aina Jr. led the Warriors with nine kills and just one error.
Pearl City 2, Baldwin 0
Joseph Hammond put down 10 kills and Cory Quiamzon had 21 assists as the Chargers (10-10) beat the Bears 25-21, 25-19. Timothy Pang had 10 kills for Baldwin (13-4).
Waiakea 2, King Kekaulike 0
Evan La Rochelle and Donovan Hoohuli both had seven kills as the Warriors (16-1) beat Na Alii (13-3) 25-13, 25-17.