Justus proud of Lunas after upset of ‘Iolani

The 2016-17 Lahainaluna Lunas finished 10-0 in MIL play and 24-2 overall. They finished third in the Snapple/HHSAA Boys Basketball Division I State Championships. (Feb. 17, 2017) Paul Honda/Star-Advertiser
The 2016-17 Lahainaluna Lunas finished 10-0 in MIL play and 24-2 overall. They finished third in the Snapple/HHSAA Boys Basketball Division I State Championships. (Feb. 17, 2017) Paul Honda/Star-Advertiser

In three short years, the Lahainaluna Lunas have transformed from a competitive program to a Division I elite-level squad.

Coach Jason Justus drew up the play on Friday afternoon against ‘Iolani during a third-place game at the Snapple/HHSAA Boys Basketball State Championships. Final seconds, ‘Iolani up 58-57. Steven Kama sets the off-ball screen for Cley Joseph Palma in the left corner, and Iverson Turno delivers the perfect pass. Corner 3, splash. Lahainaluna wins 60-58, capping a remarkable tournament that included a 28-24 halftime lead over ILH champion Punahou in the semifinal round. Punahou rallied for a 54-47 win to advance.

On paper, Lahainaluna was seeded third in the state tourney and ‘Iolani, the ILH runner-up, was unseeded. But in the eyes of voters, ‘Iolani was ranked No. 3 and Lahainaluna was No. 4. The Lunas reached the semifinal round for the first time since 1957, and like the ’57 team, this year’s squad placed third.


“I’m proud of my boys. They gave everything they had last night (against Punahou). The mental toughness it takes to wake up and play another powerhouse team,” Justus said. “In the first half, we played for fun. We played everybody and ‘Iolani played everybody.”

The Lunas finished 24-2 (10-0 MIL) taking Punahou to the hilt and knocking off defending state champion ‘Iolani. They did it the old-fashioned way, learning a system and putting in the extra effort during the offseason. From Turno to Tavaki Faleta to Jefferson Locke to Palma to Kama, up and down the roster, Justus has built what could be a dynasty for years to come at Lahainaluna.

“It’s a testimony to how much they want to buy in to being successful. Teaching that great things happen when you work hard,” he said.


That effort included month-long stays in California where the team trained in the summers. Preseason trips to Oahu. The bar kept rising. The athleticism of the Lunas has always been there, but it was the defensive intensity and footwork against Punahou that really stood out, even in defeat.

“Our first offense is our defense,” Justus said. “It’s my seniors. They were sophomores when I came in. Watching them grow and compete and be successful, that’s the sweat of the brow. It paid off.”


The only question left at season’s close: Will Justus be back next season?

He didn’t say yes and he didn’t say no. He just kept moving forward.

COMMENTS

  1. Redlentless Fan February 17, 2017 4:39 pm

    No disrespect against the Lunas. But for real. Watching the game, Iolani was playing all their players the entire game. You know they were there to just have fun. If not, do you really think they would have lost? Last night’s game against Kahuku was SUPER close. Could have gone either way. There is NO WAY that Iolani team would’ve lost to Lahainaluna if they were actually trying to win. But good job to the Lunas for turning their program around. Now on to the big game. Go Kahuku!


  2. The Watcher February 17, 2017 8:21 pm

    I have to agree. Look at the minutes played today.

    10 Hamada, Vance……. 3-4 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 3 6 0 0 0 1 9
    11 Baldomero, Helam…. * 0-2 0-0 0-0 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 5
    12 Lee, Kawika……… 1-5 1-3 0-0 1 4 5 2 3 0 1 0 0 10
    14 Felix, Frank…….. 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 5
    15 Wheeler, Sam…….. 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
    20 Van Cantfort, Ryan.. 3-3 1-1 0-0 1 1 2 1 7 0 0 0 0 8
    21 Alabanza, Bailey…. * 3-6 2-5 0-0 1 1 2 0 8 2 1 0 0 18
    22 Bumanglag, Noah….. 1-3 0-1 0-0 0 1 1 1 2 3 0 1 0 26
    23 Genovia, Justin….. 3-7 0-3 3-4 0 2 2 2 9 2 2 0 2 19
    24 Hogland, Cole……. 1-3 0-0 1-1 0 4 4 1 3 4 0 0 0 17
    30 Yokogawa, Jarin….. * 1-3 0-1 0-0 1 1 2 0 2 2 0 0 0 10
    33 Chang, Cameron…… * 0-2 0-1 0-0 0 3 3 0 0 0 2 0 0 10
    50 Hogland, Hugh……. * 7-10 2-2 2-5 1 3 4 2 18 0 3 1 0 20

    Then look at the minutes played yesterday.

    11 Baldomero, Helam…. * 3-4 2-2 0-0 0 4 4 4 8 1 2 0 1 20
    12 Lee, Kawika……… * 1-4 0-2 0-0 1 0 1 1 2 0 0 0 0 14
    23 Genovia, Justin….. * 3-13 0-5 8-10 0 1 1 4 14 4 3 0 2 31
    24 Hogland, Cole……. * 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 4 0 0 4 0 0 20
    50 Hogland, Hugh……. * 7-13 0-0 0-1 4 7 11 2 14 1 5 7 0 31
    14 Felix, Frank…….. 0-0 0-0 3-4 1 0 1 0 3 0 1 0 1 22
    20 Van Cantfort, Ryan.. 1-4 0-3 0-2 2 4 6 1 2 3 0 0 0 22
    21 Alabanza, Bailey…. 2-3 1-2 0-0 0 2 2 3 5 1 1 0 0 17
    22 Bumanglag, Noah….. 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 6
    33 Chang, Cameron…… 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 3 0 0 2 0 0 5

    They went way deeper today. And last night, two kids who normally haven’t been getting into games played since the game went into OT.


  3. Redlentless Fan February 17, 2017 9:46 pm

    Yup, iolani played EVERYONE, and not fast kine. Happy for the kids who got to play (who don’t normally get to play). Last night’s Iolani Kahuku game was the true state championship. Congrats to KAHUKU!!!


  4. Showtime February 18, 2017 12:54 am

    Lunas Did not play one of there big 3 jerami Santos who scored 15 pts vs Punahou in the semis and also played its bench players and still won

    How about that


  5. LUNATIC February 18, 2017 1:44 am

    Sorry no disrespect but this year’s championship was “bought” so to speak. Did Kahuku’s big 3 play in last year’s State tournament? LUNAS big 3 did plus they’re homegrown Lahaina boys. And Lahainaluna don’t recruit like Punahou and Iolani. So you tell me whose the TRUE champion?

    How about that!


  6. The Watcher February 18, 2017 12:49 pm

    Lunas have made it to the Final 4 once in like 57 years. Maybe you need to do a better job of RECRUITING. Doing it the homegrown way has brought you 0 titles and 1 semi-final appearances in over 50 years. If you were the CEO, you would be replaced. You have no trophies to show and you are talking crap?

    How about that!


  7. LUNATIC February 18, 2017 5:17 pm

    @Thewatcher. “Crap?” You’re questioning if I’m talking crap. My so called “CRAP?” you say is a stated FACT! You suggest recruiting. We don’t candone this form of “cheating” that’s rampant on Oahu. You never did answer MY question tho. Many come to Lahainaluna freely like our boarders without us having to wave free tuition or empty promises of college scholarships. Our cupboard is not bare of state championships. Someday one-day with a little luck and a lot of hard work we’ll walk away with a boys basketball D1 championship done the RIGHT way. You my friend is a classless ACT! Take that!


  8. Redlentless Fan February 18, 2017 6:23 pm

    Lunatic you’re right. Recruiting on Oahu is nuts. But I do think that what neighbor island schools have (that we don’t have a lot of here) … is your kids grow up playing together. That’s special. On Oahu, the kids start off together but then a lot of them branch off to private schools or the more competitive public schools. The chemistry the kids on the neighbor islands have is awesome. Wish you folks all the luck in the world to get your state championships.


  9. flyinghawaiian February 18, 2017 11:01 pm

    The Lahaina team is composed of many players that played together in the Menhune league years ago. They do have two players that are out of district transfers that started in the 9th grade. They travel together in the summer and wake up at 6 in the morning to practice shooting. Coach Justus does a tremendous job, especially on the defensive side. They have had success over the years but this year they went one game further. Last two years lost in opening round, three years ago beat Kahaleo soundly before bowing out to team that won it all. I don’t think a new level of success can be based on one win over a OIA team that finished fifth or sixth in their league this year.


  10. LUNATIC February 19, 2017 3:31 am

    @Redlentless you got my full respect BRO! Congratulations Kahuku!

    @FH…. Mules came into the tournament smoking hot and got it going at the right time. Give credit where credit is deserving. Are you suggesting LUNAS drop down to D2 and truly become the Iolani of Maui as quoted by Coach Matsuda? It defeats the purpose. Gotta be challenged make it mean something. No disrespect but D2 is not the division where Lahainaluna wants to build it’s basketball program. Congratulations to Saint Francis! Didn’t we beat them preseason? LUNAS do return 7 for next year. These seniors will be sorely and heavily missed. Lunas will need more than luck to duplicate or even come near this year’s team successes. Imua Lunas! Congratulations on a 3rd place finish. Great season Boys!


  11. flyinghawaiian February 19, 2017 11:24 am

    @Lunatic- Not at all suggesting Lunas go to D2. They had a great year. Great coaching, great off season program, great players equals a great year. They have dominated the MIL for the last three years. Just saying the draw of the state tournament can dictate what kind of year you may have. If they played Iolani in the first round instead of Leilehua would they of had the same story? If Punahou by chance had the 1 seed, Lahaina would of played Iolani. Lahaina has always been a good program. Something like 8 appearances in the last ten years, but it seems like in the first round (quarters) they always play ILH which has always has equaled a loss. Please do not count consolation games in this equation as different coaches do different things once they are out of the main draw. Lahainaluna is a great program and the town of Lahaina should be very proud of what they accomplished this year.


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