This was an opportunity to thrive or dive for Moanalua.
Na Menehune didn’t let it slip away, getting 11 first-quarter points from Geremy Robinson en route to a 59-51 win over No. 3 Kalaheo on Monday night in the semifinal round of the OIA playoffs at McKinley Student Council Gymnasium.
Robinson was relentless, taking the ball to the rack again and again against Kalaheo’s man-to-man defense. He had 20 points by halftime, including a bucket before the buzzer. By the end of the third quarter, he had 24, but Moanalua’s 16-point, first-half lead melted to 43-37 by the end of the period.
After Robinson picked up a fourth foul early in the fourth stanza, reserve Bryant Abalos got extended minutes and came through with eight points running the break with point guard Tyler Ybay. Robinson returned with 3:21 to go and contributed two blocks. He missed two foul shots in the final minutes, but Ybay stepped up with four straight free throws in the final 27.4 seconds to secure the win.
The first two of those clutch shots came after he hit the ground hard and stayed down for a minute on a foul.
“Tyler is a competitor. He’s tough. When he got fouled hard and was down, I knew he’d get up and make those free throws,” Moanalua coach Michael Johnson said. “He’s one of our guys who are the heart and soul of this team. He’s got the defensive tenacity and he’s cool and calm on offense.”
Ybay finished with four points, but his reliability was key as Kalaheo made one run after another. He had three assists and a steal with no turnovers in the second half.
Johnson is Moanalua’s third head coach this season. Byron Mello stepped down shortly into preseason and JROTC intstructor Col. Michael Wingfield became interim coach. Wingfield was kept on staff when Johnson was hired in late December. For all the changeover and adversity, Na Menehune were a cohesive unit and looked the part of a defending OIA champion.
“They learned a whole new offense, a new defense. The turning point was the first game against Kalaheo,” Johnson said, referring to a 37-33 road loss on Jan. 11. “They flipped the switch after that. They’ve absorbed everything way better than I expected. It’s definitely a good senior-led group.”
The was no rattling the cages for Moanalua, which was poised from start to finish. Even when Robinson was charged with his first foul, it appeared to be another player who committed it, Na Menehune stayed calm.
“I always tell my guys, it’s whatever the ref,” said Johnson, whose even-keeled demeanor is another key.
Ybay isn’t the only role player making a difference. Kyle Hughley had three first-half assists and finished with six points. Elijah McGruder had four points and six rebounds, plus a block. Hughley and McGruder teamed up with center DiAeris McRaven (six points, eight rebounds, two blocks) in the paint. Nainoa Kauhola added four points, three caroms, a steal and a block. The emphasis on tough defense was huge on a night when Na Menehune committed 16 turnovers.
Kalaheo got 19 points and 10 boards from Andrew Jones, but clearly missed 6-foot-4 senior Bobby Thompson, who injured his left wrist in a quarterfinal win over Kapolei last week.
“I wasn’t happy we lost,” Thompson said, his arm in a sling. “But it was nice to see them compete.”
Kalaheo pumped the ball to Jones on the block many times, but misfired on open shots from the arc. The Mustangs were 3-for-19 from deep.
OIA PlayoffsUpdated: Feb. 12
|2/4||Kapolei (W4)||Kailua (E5)||Kapo, 34-31|
|2/4||Moanalua (E3)||Campbell (W6)||Moan, 56-34|
|2/4||Radford (W3)||Kalani (E6)||Rad, 52-41|
|2/4||Kaiser (E4)||Pearl City (W5)||Kais, 59-38|
|2/5||Kalaheo (E1)||Kapolei||Kalh, 60-39|
|2/5||Mililani (W2)||Moanalua||Moan, 73-48|
|2/5||Kahuku (E2)||Radford||Kah, 69-43|
|2/5||Leilehua (W1)||Kaiser||Lei, 40-39|
|Consolation semifinals—At Higher Seed|
|Semifinals — At McKinley|
|Fifth place—At Higher Seed|
|Third place—At Higher Seed|
|Championship — At McKinley|
|2/4||Waipahu (W2)||Kaimuki (E3)||Kaim, 61-50|
|2/4||McKinley (E2)||Waialua (W3)||McK, 54-33|
|2/5||Roosevelt (E1)||Kaimuki||Roos, 61-54 (OT)|
|2/5||Nanakuli (W1)||McKinley||McK, 40-23|
|Championship— At McKinley|
|* — @ Roosevelt|