For 27 minutes, Kahuku had the kryptonite to destroy Hawaii’s super team.
Using a lethal fullcourt press and constant double teams on DeForest Buckner, the Red Raiders had the top-seeded Punahou Buffanblu on the ropes. But Malik Johnson stepped up with 22 points and defensive specialist Matthew Taniguchi hit three key free throws in the final 34 seconds as Punahou escaped with a 59-52 win over Kahuku for the Division I crown of the Hawaiian Airlines/HHSAA Boys Basketball State Championships Saturday night.
DeForest Buckner, bound for Oregon this fall to play football, chipped in 10 points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots. Kahuku still managed to win the battle on the boards, 29-28, to lead until the final 5 minutes.
"My teammates had confidence in me and set me up perfectly," Johnson said. "They were all over DeForest. Everyone was watching him because he’s our go-to guy, and Matthew was clutch."