Chong helps Pu­na­hou rally past La­hainaluna

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - SPORTS - By Billy Hull bhull@starad­ver­

It wasn’t quite the chal­lenge Kahuku faced, but the path to the Divi­sion I state ti­tle game wasn’t easy for Pu­na­hou ei­ther.

The Buf­fan­blu trailed by as many as eight in the se­cond half against MIL cham­pion La­hainaluna be­fore ral­ly­ing for a 54-47 win in the se­cond Divi­sion I semi­fi­nal of the Snap­ple/HHSAA Boys Basketball State Cham­pi­onships at McKin­ley Stu­dent Coun­cil Gym on Thurs­day night.

Zayne Chong scored a game-high 21 points and Cole Mau­solf added 11 points, three re­bounds, two as­sists and two big buck­ets to start the fourth quar­ter for Pu­na­hou (13-3), which will play the Red Raiders in the fi­nal tonight at the Stan Sher­iff Cen­ter.

“We’ve just got to go out there and play the best we can,” said Pu­na­hou coach Dar­ren Mat­suda, who won his only state ti­tle beat­ing Kahuku in the fi­nal in 2012. “We watched the game against ‘Iolani, and ‘Iolani and those guys played a great game and we hope to do the same thing.” Roughly 30 min­utes after ‘Iolani lost to Kahuku 51-48 in over­time, Pu­na­hou jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead against the Lu­nas (15-1). La­hainaluna, which hadn’t lost since be­fore the start of the MIL reg­u­lar sea­son, trailed 15-8 with 3:17 re­main­ing in the first quar­ter after Chris Kobayashi hit his se­cond 3-pointer for Pu­na­hou. Se­nior guard Jeremi San­tos hit two from long range dur­ing a 20-9 Lu­nas run and Cley Joseph Palma nailed a 3-pointer with sec­onds re­main­ing in the half to put La­hainaluna up 28-24 at the break.

“We came out a lit­tle scared,” Chong said. San­tos’ steal and layup gave La­hainaluna its largest lead of the game at 32-24 early in the third quar­ter be­fore Chong got his Buf­fan­blu team­mates go­ing. He drilled one of his three 3-point­ers to stop a 24-9 run and Mau­solf scored five quick points to pull the Buf­fan­blu within two. Chong con­verted a three­p­oint play to give Pu­na­hou its first lead of the se­cond half and the game was knot­ted 39-all to end the third. Mau­solf scored on a back­door cut for a layup to open the fourth quar­ter and then his steal and layup put Pu­na­hou up four. La­hainaluna made only two field goals in the fourth quar­ter and Pu­na­hou made six free throws down the stretch to pull out the win. “These guys (La­hainaluna) are re­ally tough. They play re­ally, re­ally fun­da­men­tally sound de­fense and they don’t take bad shots,” Mat­suda said. “I call them the ‘Iolani of Maui in a lot ways. They are very dis­ci­plined.” Jef­fer­son Locke led the Lu­nas with 16 points and eight re­bounds and San­tos added 15 points. La­hainaluna had nine steals and forced 13 turnovers but was out­re­bounded 27-19 and shot 33.3 per­cent (6-for-18) from the field in the se­cond half.

“It was a game of swings and the ball didn’t bounce our way at times,” La­hainaluna coach Ja­son Jus­tus said. “We kind of got dis­or­ga­nized on their of­fense, but it should be a good game to­mor­row.”


Pu­na­hou’s Zayne Chong sliced through the La­hainaluna de­fense for a shot at the bas­ket.

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