ILH boys basketball competition began in 1915 and included Punahou, St. Louis, Kamehameha and McKinley. Punahou won its first ILH championship in 1920, but dropped boys basketball in 1921 and did not rejoin the ILH until 1943.
The first basketball games were played outdoors at the National Guard Armory. The first Punahou basketball courts were constructed on Alexander Field in 1917. The first Punahou gym, a war surplus airplane hangar, was erected in 1952. Hemmeter Fieldhouse, part of a $13.2 million dollar athletic complex renovation, was built in 1982 and became the home for boys and girls basketball and volleyball.
A persistent ILH contender and perennial power, Punahou was undefeated in the ILH in 1920, 1964, 1972 and 1990. Punahou sponsored a pre-season Christmas tournament for many years (1956 to 1985). At its peak, Punahou had as many as 32 participating teams.
The girls basketball teams played occasional challenge games against Kamehameha and McKinley as early as 1914. Up until the ’60s, however, most games were played on Punahou Girls Athletics Association playdays, when several schools were invited to attend and all participants were divided into mixed teams rather than by school affiliation.
Official ILH competition began in the spring of 1972, with six teams, including Punahou Blue and Punahou Gold. Punahou continued to have two varsity teams until 1980, when the ILH established two varsity divisions, I and II.
The HHSAA began state championship play in 1977.