He’s not just an interim coach.
Col. Michael Wingfield is the JROTC instructor at Moanalua. The players simply call him “Colonel”. Wingfield and four assistant coaches, nearly all brand-new since the resignation of head coach Byron Mello on Nov. 27, saw Na Menehune escape with a 56-54 overtime win over ‘Iolani on Thursday night.
In other matchups on day one of the OIA-ILH Challenge, Leilehua outlasted Mid-Pacific 62-54, Maryknoll defeated Kalaheo 45-37 and Kahuku hit three key free throws in the final 14 seconds for a 48-45 win over Saint Louis.
Geremy Robinson, a 6-1 junior with interest from Wichita State, led Moanalua with 19 points, including a bucket that gave his team a five-point lead early in the extra period.
“Colonel, his last name, I’m not sure. I just know him as Colonel,” Robinson said. “He makes sure we’re in shape, though, I can tell you that. We’re always running up and down (at practice). That’s what we needed. We were gassed in our first game.”
The third-year varsity starter, and returning All-State Fab 15 selection, believes the team is moving forward despite some criticism on social media toward the program after Mello’s departure.
“It’s been kind of tough on us. We have a lot of hate on us. Comments about our whole team. We just play through the adversity,” Robinson said. “Everybody can say whatever they want. We’ve been practicing pretty hard ever since that change with coach (Mello).”
The Raiders have ridden some bumps early in preseason as new head coach Ryan Hirata rounds his team out with recent additions from the football team. The football Raiders played in the Division I state final last weekend. ‘Iolani struggled for 10 minutes, falling behind by 15, then played a solid 26 minutes after that.
“In spurts, we played really well. It’s a work in progress,” said Hirata, who returned to his alma mater after coaching at Mid-Pacific for five seasons. “Guys who never played minutes before played well and fought back. We’re trying to build something.”
Hirata coached against Mello’s Moanalua teams.
“Moanalua is a good team. They’ve bounced back from adversity. (Mello) did a good job with the program. I like him as a person and a coach. I wish him the best,” Hirata said.
It was eight months earlier during the state tournament when ‘Iolani came to Moanalua and eliminated Na Menehune in the quarterfinal round, a 52-47 overtime win.
“We came out slow with the loss in states against ‘Iolani. We kept fighting this whole game. We really wanted this game real bad,” Robinson said. “We kept our heads together. That’s what we when we started to go down. Coaches got us up, everybody picked each other up. We made sure we picked each other up. We made sure the energy was up and the crowd did a great job of keeping us energized.”
Wingfield and staff are “mostly DOE employees,” Moanalua athletic director Joel Kawachi said. Former player Kahanu Puulei-Auld is the lone holdover from Mello’s staff. The school is fielding resumes until Dec. 11 for a replacement.
Kawachi said Winfield is not under consideration as a hire. Interim is interim.
“In the past, he’s come to all of our games. He knows basketball,” Kawachi said.
Moanalua was in high-octane mode from the opening tip against perennial ILH title contender ‘Iolani. After Robinson’s 3, the home team led 10-0. The lead increased to 23-8 before the visitors began to chip away. The Raiders’ 2-2-1 press created difficulty for Moanalua, as did the play of reserve post Kilo Scanlan.
Carter Kamana sat out in preparation for the JPS football exhibition on Saturday. Shayden Molina returned from the long football season and played some backup minutes in his first preseason game.
The home crowd at Moanalua had plenty of questions, and some of them were answered on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the process continues.
“There are more applications than I expected,” Kawachi said, noting that Waianae is searching for a new coach, too.
“They were supposed to play us and both teams didn’t have a coach,” he said. “We’re doing our best for these boys.”
Meanwhile, Moanalua takes on defending state champion Maryknoll in Friday night’s late game (8:30 p.m.)
“Maryknoll’s a good, solid team,” Robinson said.
Moanalua 56, ‘Iolani 54, OT
In addition to Robinson’s 19 points, center DiAeris McRaven tallied 11 points. Nainoa Kauhola added eight points, including a 3-pointer to open overtime.
Andrew Dawson led ‘Iolani with 12 points. Devan Fujinaka added nine points and Wesley Yamada chipped in eight. The Raiders shot a scintillating 10-for-21 (48 percent) from the 3-point arc.
Moanalua finished 4-for-13 (31 percent) from long range.
Leilehua 62, Mid-Pacific 54
Landyn Jumawan poured in 19 points, including three treys in the opening quarter, to lead the Mules over the Owls. Aviel Palmer added 10 points. Leilehua shot 6-for-17 (35 percent) from 3-point range.
Elijah Kahue-Parker powered MPI with 20 points. James Smotherman added 12 points. The Owls shot 5-for-15 (33 percent) from the arc.
Maryknoll 45, Kalaheo 37
Niko Robben led the defending state champion Spartans with 10 points. Sage Tolentino added six. Center/forward Liko Soares returned from an illness and had four points. Maryknoll shot 40 percent (6-for-15) from the arc.
Bobby Thompson led the Mustangs with 11 points. Luke Pardini and Andrew Jones finished with six points apiece. Kalaheo shot 7-for-23 (30 percent) from 3-point range.
Kahuku 48, Saint Louis 45
Sophomore Amari Westmoreland-Vendiola sank two free throws with 14 seconds left to break a 44-all tie as the Red Raiders pulled away. Daniel Kaio sank two foul shots to help seal the win.
Westmoreland-Vendiola finished with 13 points. Oscar Cheng, a 6-foot-9 transfer from the Bay Area, led Kahuku with 14. Lokana Enos, fresh off the gridiron for the OIA’s football champion, added 12 points.
Kahuku shot 24 percent (5-for-21) from the 3-point line.
Malu Ing paced the Crusaders with nine points. Avia Arquette and Kahaku Marquez added eight points each. The Crusaders shot 26 percent (5-for-14) from the arc.
Games at Moanalua
4 p.m. ‘Iolani vs. Leilehua
5:30 p.m. Mid-Pacific vs. Kahuku
7 p.m. Saint Louis vs. Kalaheo
8:30 p.m. Maryknoll vs. Moanalua
2 p.m. Moanalua vs. Mid-Pacific
3:30 p.m. Kalaheo vs. ‘Iolani
5 p.m. Leilehua vs. Saint Louis
6:30 p.m. Kahuku vs. Maryknoll
NOTE: Corrects to indicate Wichita State has shown interest in Geremy Robinson. There is no scholarship offer yet.