Gritty defense spurs Moanalua to back-to-back OIA boys hoops titles

Geremy Robinson scored 19 points to spark Moanalua over Kahuku, 56-48, in the final of the OIA boys basketball Division I playoffs of 2020. Robinson's dunk came after the final buzzer. Cindy-Ellen Russell/Star-Advertiser

Most years, Kahuku can outmuscle competition in the OIA.

Not so much on title night. No. 8 Moanalua answered with physical, smart defense and held on for a 56-48 win over No. 4 Kahuku to win its second league championship in a row.

Geremy Robinson had a team-high 19 points, and center DiAeris McRaven was stout with 15 points, nine rebounds and four blocks. Since new coach Michael Johnson was hired, Na Menehune have played a tougher, more physical brand of defense. Sometimes it means foul trouble, but on Wednesday night, it just meant contesting a lot of Kahuku shots by Moanalua (18-9).

Kahuku shot 37 percent from the field (16-for-43). Big man Oscar Cheng, a 6-foot-9 senior, turned in a double-double with 24 points and 17 rebounds, but no other Red Raider scored in double figures. Robinson credited his coach, Johnson, for Moanalua’s tougher brand of defense.

“Big props to Coach Johnson. Defense, defense, defense. He’s a really good defensive coach. We don’t want to give up any easy buckets so you might as well foul hard, but we don’t want to hurt somebody,” said Robinson, a junior guard.”

As with most championship tilts, officials allowed some contact between the big guys in the paint. Some of the bumps and contact of the previous round were tolerated more often on Wednesday, which benefited the heavyweights on both sides.

“That’s the biggest thing that we talk about. Being disciplined. Walling up with high hands, forcing tough shots over you, then box out and rebound,” Johnson said. “It’s a very hard thing to coach because a lot of times, if we’re undisciplined as a team, or if someone’s athletic, they think they can block everything. But a lot of times, it gets us in foul trouble, or it leaves our back-side rebounding out to dry. So it counts for us to be an extremely disciplined team. I think we got it when we needed it tonight.”

When Moanalua lost at Kahuku on Jan. 2, McRaven was away on a volleyball trip. Kahuku won, 63-60, spoiling Johnson’s debut as a head coach. They’ve improved significantly since.

“It’s a big difference. We’ve learned a new defense and new offense. When we didn’t have DiAeris (against Kahuku on Jan. 2), it was rough. We made sure today was a win. We prepared very, very well,” Robinson said.

Comparing the 2019 OIA title to the ’20 crown, Robinson enjoyed both titles.

“Coach (Byron) Mello, great coach. Coach Johnson, great coach, also. This is going to be memorable. It’s his first year, his first OIA championship,” Robinson said.

Last year, Moanalua’s momentum was halted in the quarterfinals of the state tourney.

“We’re going to practice hard. We’re not really satisfied. This happened last year, so we want to make sure we keep playing good throughout states. If we get that state championship, then we’ll be satisfied,” Robinson said. “We’re going to play our game, play great D, convert on offense and we should be straight from there.”

Johnson likes his team’s defense as a whole, including Robinson.

“I think he’s progressed tremendously. We put him on ball at times. The biggest thing for Geremy is he’s bigger, he’s athletic. He’s going to be more athletic than a lot of teams that we face, so he can help us with rebounding. He can be a nightmare guarding the basketball and defending without fouling,” Johnson said. “With Geremy, he’s got to decide to guard 100 percent of the time. I think he’s truly making progress. He’s going to be a lockdown defender for us.”

It wasn’t just Robinson and McRaven. The entire team, including speedy point guard Tyler Ybay (four steals) is committed to contest every shot. That mind-set carried them in the OIA playoffs.

“For me, I was excited for the opportunity when I came on board to help Moanalua. To see them develop. There’s no secret that they’ve been successful in the past. I just want to do my part,” Johnson added. “It’s the passion and enjoyment I get of watching these kids celebrate. They work hard day in and day out. To see them be victorious in a game like this, it’s what I live for.”

OIA Playoffs

Updated: Feb. 12
First round
2/4Kapolei (W4)Kailua (E5)Kapo, 34-31
2/4Moanalua (E3)Campbell (W6)Moan, 56-34
2/4Radford (W3)Kalani (E6)Rad, 52-41
2/4Kaiser (E4)Pearl City (W5)Kais, 59-38
2/5Kalaheo (E1)KapoleiKalh, 60-39
2/5Mililani (W2)MoanaluaMoan, 73-48
2/5Kahuku (E2)RadfordKah, 69-43
2/5Leilehua (W1)KaiserLei, 40-39
Consolation semifinals—At Higher Seed
2/10MililaniKapoleiKapo, 41-40
2/10RadfordKaiserKais, 55-27
Semifinals — At McKinley
2/10KalaheoMoanaluaMoan, 59-51
2/10KahukuLeilehuaKah, 59-58
Fifth place—At Higher Seed
2/12KapoleiKaiserKais, 39-33
Third place—At Higher Seed
2/12LeilehuaKalaheoLei, 63-50
Championship — At McKinley
2/12MoanaluaKahukuMoan, 56-48
2/4Waipahu (W2)Kaimuki (E3)Kaim, 61-50
2/4McKinley (E2)Waialua (W3)McK, 54-33
2/5Roosevelt (E1)KaimukiRoos, 61-54 (OT)
2/5Nanakuli (W1)McKinleyMcK, 40-23
Championship— At McKinley
2/12RooseveltMcKinleyRoos, 43-41
* — @ Roosevelt


  1. Loca1boi February 13, 2020 4:57 am

    Congrats OIA champ… And your prize is….. (Drumroll) …. Now you get put in the bracket where you likely have to play all three ILH teams to win states. Runner-up Kahuku has a much more desirable path in the state tournament.

  2. Lisad February 13, 2020 2:12 pm

    Congratulations Moanalua OIA Champions! Great job! Stay consistent and strong as you prepare for STATE. Take no prisoners. So proud of you! How ya like me Now!

  3. SweatyMurphy February 14, 2020 4:32 pm

    This was a sloppy game on both ends. To me, it further shed light on the disparity between the top 3 ILH teams and every OIA team.

  4. Coach Taylor February 14, 2020 4:46 pm

    If I coached Moanalua we would win states. I have a ton of state titles are my house . Ke Akua knows.

  5. Opinion February 14, 2020 7:58 pm

    Kamehameha beat Maryknoll 38-29. Awful offensive show. Missed layups and chip shots. Hard to imagine the Moanalua-Kahuku game reaffirmed your belief.

  6. SweatyMurphy February 15, 2020 8:12 am


    Yes, the game did reaffirm that for me. Neither Moanlua or Kahuku have the talent or the discipline to beat the top ILH teams in the state tournament. Moanalua ultimately will have to get past all 3 ILH seeds. Damien, their first ILH opponent, will be too much for them. They are outmatched in every position in that matchup. There is no perk to winning the OIA as far as seedings goes.

  7. Opinion February 15, 2020 9:17 am


    Nobody on Damien’s entire roster can matchup up against G. Robinson without help. With the exception of Tino, who doesn’t have the speed to keep up with Robinson off the bounce, the other Damien guards are way too small and would get posted up all night. The second Damien hedges to help, McRaven will get open lanes to the hoop. Forbes doesn’t have the strength to keep McRaven in check. That leaves Jake, who consistently gets himself into foul trouble. McRavens agility on the block will get Jake in the air and draw fouls. Lose track of Kauhola and he’ll make u pay behind the arc. MPI, half the team Moanalua is now took Damien to the wire losing by 4. Or we’d be taking about MPI being the 3rd ILH team in states.

  8. SweatyMurphy February 15, 2020 10:30 am


    You are a Moanalua homer. Robinson and McRaven are not this unstoppable tandem. Robinson’s shot selection is not good at all often airballing many of his attempts of the dribble. He shot 5-15 against Kahuku putting up shots because he wants his points up. His handles are not top-notch either as he is very turnover prone trying to be fancy dribbling through defenses. Who cares if teams double him to lock him up, so be it. It’s not a knock on the defense if they want to double. McRaven is dominant for OIA standards, but in the ILH, the multi-sport football bigs are gonna be stronger than him. Every ILH team in the tournament has the personnel to go against Moanalua. Moanalua doesn’t have the talent to beat all 3 ILH seeds three nights in a row.
    And as for your claim about MPI being “half the team Moanalua is now”. Please stop. MPI beat Moanalua this season already by double digits with Robinson AND McRaven in the lineup. Held them both to below double digits. Don’t act like Moanalua made extraordinary gains while MPI stayed stagnant. MPI had tougher competition on a nightly basis and took out Punahou in the state tournamnet – a team I’d pick to beat Moanalua 9/10. Put MPI in the OIA, and they run through every team. Put Moanalua in the ILH and they would be watching the state tournament from the convenience of their living rooms.

  9. Opinion February 15, 2020 11:25 am


    You are an ILH homer. Pretty obvious. You’re bringing up pre season games when Moanalua was playing under an interim coach in a completely different system from what they were use to. You’d pick any ILH team, homer. Moanalua’s defense is day and night compared to where they were in preseason. With ILH teams lighting up the scoreboard nightly in the high 30’s, won’t take much. Kamehameha and Maryknoll are in a different class from the the rest of the ILH teams. What football bigs are u referencing? Lee and and Jake? Stop it. It will be incredibly difficult for any team to face Damien, Maryknoll and kam on successive nights. But it would be difficult for any IlH team to face the other 2 on back to back nights. Before u call anybody a homer, look in the mirror.

  10. We will see soon enough February 15, 2020 4:50 pm

    One thing is for sure….we will see how good Moanalua is soon enough. I had a feeling that they’d win the OIA. They just had too much coming back. I was very surprised at how much they struggled early on, even with the coaching issue. However, beating 3 ILH teams to get the title…that’s a lot. That should not be what the seed for the OIA champion should be. The OIA runner up has a softer road, although Kamehameha is on that road.

    Anyway, like I said….we will all know soon enough.

  11. Two cents (only two) February 18, 2020 8:32 pm

    The sleeper is McGruder, who plays without the fan fair. For some reason this coach doesn’t start him, however he finishes the games. Look at the stats. He is the second leading scorer throughout the season and the top rebounder (did I mention he doesn’t start). He got in foul trouble against Kahuku. I think he might be the Xfactor if he’s on his game.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email