By Wes Nakama, HHSAA
Malik Johnson scored 22 points—including 15 in the pivotal fourth period—and grabbed five rebounds and DeForest Buckner added 10 points and 10 rebounds to help Punahou rally past Kahuku, 59-52, for the 56th Annual Hawaiian Airlines/Hawaii High School Athletic Association Boys Basketball State Championship.
A Blaisdell Arena crowd of about 3,500 watched the Buffanblu finish the regular and postseason at 14-1. The Red Raiders, seeking their first state title, ended up 18-2.
Punahou jumped out to leads of 6-0, 10-4 and 12-6 before Kahuku finished the first period with a 9-2 run to go up, 15-14, entering the second.
The Red Raiders took a 28-25 lead into halftime and led, 37-31, after Mikeli Fiso’s layup with 2:20 remaining in the third quarter, but the Buffanblu closed it to 42-39 on Taylor Henderson’s putback three seconds before the buzzer.
Fiso scored another layup 90 seconds into the fourth period to put Kahuku ahead, 44-39, but Johnson answered with back-to-back layups and a free throw and Buckner followed with a putback to give Punahou its first lead since the opening quarter at 46-44.
Benny Fonua responded with a layup to tie it at 46-46, and after Johnson sank two free throws to put the Buffanblu up, 48-46, the Red Raiders tied it again at 48-48 on a layup by Evan Ramirez with four minutes left.
Johnson then gave Punahou the lead for good by converting two free throws 30 seconds later, and Matthew Taniguchi capped a 7-0 run with two more free throws with 46 seconds remaining to make it 55-48.
After Lasselle Thompson’s free throw closed it to 55-49 with 34.5 ticks on the clock, Johnson swished four straight from the charity stripe to seal the victory.
Kawe Johnson scored 15 points and Mason Kualii-Moe added 13 points for Kahuku.