The trainer came in with the right uniforms, and McLachlin reviewed the game strategy on a chalk board after they changed. They could hear the roar of the crowd; a lesser game was finishing. The coach started shouting, his players more intense with every word. We must scramble.. . .We must guard the baseline.. . .We have to run UCLA, Vegas, North Carolina on defense.. . .Then his voice softened. “You know you’ve come a long way since the Maui tournament.. . .No matter what happens tonight, this year has been a success.. . .I’m proud of every one of you. You’re all as good as everyone says you are. You are OUT OF THIS WORLD like all the sports writers say. Listen, we’ve got the good uniforms, we’ve got the good bench, and the good basket to start the game. Let’s go out there and play 32 minutes of clinic basketball. Let’s go out there and do it for one more half. LET’S TAKE THIS THING!”
The Buffanblu raced out from the locker room, into the arena lights, Boy Eldredge leading the way (”Last half, seniors!” he yelled) followed by his classmates -- Gabriel, Tavares, Topolinski, Orme, Oshima, Maurer, and Obama, and underclassmen Kamana, Hale, Lum, and Hiu. Prep school versus public school. Powerhouse versus underdog. Experience versus newcomer. No one expected Moanalua to be there. They were slated to lose long ago to University High. They had two African Americans, the Johnson brothers, sparking their rise. “They were on a roll. They were Cinderella,” recalled Lum. “I remember stretching before the game, and I remember looking up and it was standing room only and we had a little section of Punahou but the rest was basically Moanalua, -- and it would have been a great story if they had come in and won, but. . .”
Not a chance. In the opening minutes, Punahou scored 15 straight points and jumped ahead 18-4. They were pressing, double-teaming, cornering, smothering. Moanalua went 11 minutes and 51 seconds during one early stretch without making a field goal, missing 14 consecutive shots, while Punahou was hitting two of every three shots. Pineapple Head was feeling it, getting feeds on the wing from Tavares and pouring them in. Squeeze was jumping out of the gym. McLachlin, who rarely let up, knew the game was theirs. “I remember him pulling out Squeeze and me in the first quarter, fairly early in the game, and I remember I was confused,” Hale recalled. “Why are we going out? Championship game. We gotta go! And he went, ‘Danny, look at the score. And it was something like 35 to 3 [not quite, but almost]. It was such a team of dedication and it all came together at that moment.”
Topo was sent in, and Oshima and Obama, and Orme and Maurer. Matt Hiu shouted with excitement “I might play!” -- and he was right. Everyone played. Near the end, Boy Eldredge asked McLachlin if all eight seniors could go in together in the final minute. Barry ended up making the box score, with two points, but executed some nifty passes and played stifling defense. Gabriel had 18, Kamana 15, Hale 9 on the way to an overwhelming win, 60-28. At the end, the crowd recognized their brilliance and showered the winners with love and cheers. Little boys rushed the court. Parents and grandparents and teachers and friends came forward after the awards ceremony (Gabes was MVP) and placed lei after lei around the necks of the ecstatic champions.
On the bus ride home, McLachlin choked up speaking to his team. “This particular team in this particular tournament played as good a game as I’ve ever seen a high school team play. You played a perfect game -- and that included everyone who stepped on the court. This is the finest effort by twelve young men that I have ever seen.” It was also the last time he coached Punahou basketball. He decided to go out with a perfect game.