Chong helps Punahou rally past Lahainaluna
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.