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).
— Paul Honda (@PupulePaul) February 13, 2020
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 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|