Punahou, Kamehameha reach HHSAA boys volleyball championship

Kamehameha has one last chance to kill the dragon.

Ten-time defending boys volleyball state champion Punahou and rival Kapalama reached the New City Nissan/HHSAA Division I tournament final by putting out the best the Oahu Interscholastic Association had to offer in Friday’s semifinals at Hemmeter Fieldhouse.

The Warriors and star Kainoa Wade decided to return to this stage after their crushing loss to Buffanblu in last year’s final at the Cannon Activity Center on the North Shore.

They accomplished that part of their mission by defeating OIA champion Moanalua in four games, 25-11, 26-28, 25-20, 25-19. Behind 36 kills in 60 swings from the University of Hawaii, Wade, a junior who plans to He graduated early and played college ball the next spring.

Punahou (15-0) won all four meetings with Kamehameha (13-5) in the regular season and playoffs in the Honolulu Interscholastic League. Ric-ton Buffanblu beat OIA runner-up Mililani 25-17, 25-19, 25-19 in a typically balanced effort. Adam Haider and Brody Badham had 10 kills, while Evan Porter and Avatia Thompson recorded nine kills.

Buffanblu’s Nalu Akana had 29 assists, 11 digs, an ace and three blocks.

Saturday’s 7pm finale at Blaisdell Arena will be a real contrast in styles between the all-around, well-equipped Buffanblu machine with threats all over the net, and the Warriors’ reliance on the 6-foot-8 Wade, who can string together kills like no other in this Generation of Hawaii high school volleyball.

2023 looked to be the year for the Warriors after winning the ILH Championship, but the Buffanblu dynasty surprised them at the finish line. Could the opposite be true this time?

“It’s a dream come true (to come back) after losing that ship last year, we just wanted to play for each other and bring it back last year for our seniors,” Warriors libero Harrison Soares, who played five games against Moanalua, told Spectrum News.

An excited Soares bleached his hair blonde to show his dedication to the state championship.

“Just to get them back after losing to them in the ILH, and (they) have been winning all year, is a big motivation for us. We kind of like it,” he said. “We have one last game against them, and this game is what really matters. “We’ll deal with it as quickly as possible, empty the tank, and it’ll be over.”

For the Division II final at 5 p.m., a first-time champion is secured between University Lab schools ILH (13-0) and Le Jardin (9-6).

The Junior Bows swept Molokai in Friday’s semi-final in Kalani, while the Bulldogs beat Konawaena in five games.

Brian MacInnis He covers the state’s sports scene for Spectrum News Hawaii. It can be reached at brian.mcinnis@charter.com.

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