Moanalua peaks under pressure for OIA title win over Kailua

Moanalua won the OIA title for the first time since 2011. Photo by Bruce Asato/Star-Advertiser.

Normally, a blast of cold water would feel great in the sultry confines of McKinley Student Council Gym.

Moanalua coach Byron Mello didn’t mind at all. Not after reserve forward Kyle Hughley made the extra effort to grab a water bottle from the bench, and then doused his coach after Na Menehune overcame Kailua 56-49 in overtime for the OIA championship.

“That’s what you’ve got to live with, with these guys. Now let’s catch pneumonia,” Mello said.

No. 5 Moanalua (20-6) has a penchant for running the break, scoring in flurries against any opponent. There was patience on this evening, however, against a speedy, tall and long Kailua squad.

“Kailua did a real good job of being disciplined and exciting. We were fortunate to come out with a win,” said Mello, who was an assistant to Greg Tacon when Moanalua last won the OIA title in 2011.

DiAeris McRaven walked out of McKinley’s gym after the semifinals on Monday with his left ankle wrapped in ice. He gutted through this one, a 6-foot-5 defensive stopper who played his best down the stretch.

“You know, it’s so good, so relieving. Finally bringing home a championship after many years. It’s so good to bring it home,” McRaven said.

At McKinley, the earlier game, a win by Farrington over Kaiser for the Division II title, provided a backdrop full of questions. Farrington, a team that had beaten Moanalua and Kailua during the regular season, is in D-II mode at this point and in the upcoming state tournament. Moanalua and Kailua had met once in preseason, a 52-38 win by Kailua at the ‘Iolani Classic. A month later, Moanalua won their regular-season meeting, 78-54.

On Wednesday, though, Moanalua couldn’t seem to shake the Surfriders. Even with leading scorer Everett Torres-Kahapea leaving the game with 7:36 left in the second quarter, Moanalua didn’t have an answer for Kailua’s 6-foot-6 post/wing, Isaiah Hopson. He scored 16 points in the first half on 7-for-9 shooting, driving past Moanalua’s swat machine, McRaven, through tight spaces for bucket after bucket.

Despite the absence of their senior guard, Kailua led 24-23 at the half. Perfect. But the return of Torres-Kahapea in the second half didn’t launch the Surfriders. In fact, Hopson took just two shots in the second half as Moanalua’s defense made adjustments. Torres-Kahapea got hot, scoring 10 points on 4-for-5 shooting as the Surfriders took a 36-33 lead into the fourth quarter.

Moanalua, meanwhile, persevered. Despite shooting 4-for-15 in the third quarter, Elijah McGruder hustled for three offensive rebounds and McRaven hit the offensive glass for two more. Moanalua had six offensive caroms foil Kailua, which normally goes on a run when Torres-Kahapea gets hot.

Defense, not offense, carried Na Menehune on this night. Moanalua’s man-to-man defense, with Isaiah Sugiura and Blayze Simon covering the dangerous Torres-Kahapea, limited him to 2-for-7 shooting after the third period. Hopson followed the hot first half with three points the rest of the way on 1-for-4 shooting.

Somehow, almost miraculously, McRaven managed to avoid fouling out, coming up big with 11 of his 12 points after intermission. He added nine points and two blocks.

“We started clicking. We started talking to each other. We started working together as a team,” McRaven said.

“His volleyball game has made him a better basketball player because he’s so good off the ground now,” Mello said. “Last year, he was just kind of flailing and stuff. Now, he’s a disciplined athlete. He tracks guys. He’s got great timing. He’s quick off the ground. He’s a lot stronger.”

McGruder finished with nine points and 10 boards, including seven on offense.

“McGruder is Dennis Rodman. He does the dirty work. He works his tail off. He doesn’t say a word and he’s great on the offensive boards,” Mello said.

Experience has made Moanalua the kind of team that never gets down anymore. Fighting to stay with Kailua late in the game, they executed a cross screen on the block with McGruder and McRaven that led to a McRaven bucket. They also freed up Sugiura (15 points), who went from the right corner to the top on a back screen, and he swished a huge 3 that gave Moanalua the lead.

“Frankly, early in the season I don’t think we disciplined enough to do that. I think that’s the biggest difference. We weren’t doing that early in the season and we’re executing at the right time and I’m happy about that,” Mello said.

Geremy Robinson had just six points in the regulation against Kailua’s tough wing defenders. He didn’t even have a field-goal attempt in the fourth quarter. Yet, he stepped up with six big points in overtime, and his coast-to-coast play, feeding McRaven for a slam dunk, gave Moanalua a 53-47 lead with 33 seconds to play in OT.

Moanalua’s DiAeris McRaven threw down a two-handed dunk in overtime against Kailua. Photo by Bruce Asato/Star-Advertiser.

“We kept our poise. We calmed down. They were trying to rattle us up as always, that always happens to us,” the sophomore guard said. “We know as a team, to win championships, this is hard.”

In the end, Moanalua shot 43 percent from the field (18-for-42) and turned the ball over just nine times. Kailua shot 40 percent from the field (19-for-47) and had just nine turnovers, as well. But in overtime, the Surfriders were 1-for-8 from the field. It was a microcosm of the season for a team that has improved, just not quite enough to get past the East’s top team.

The Surfriders had been looking forward to winning the title, and then shaving the head of Walter Marciel. The longtime coach still had his hair after this game.

“As soon as we get back in the gym, we’ll erase this and get ready for Kalaheo or Mililani, whoever won,” Marciel said. “That’s who we’ll probably play (in the state tournament).”

At McKinley
Kailua (18-12) 12 12 12 9 4 — 49
Moanalua (20-6) 8 15 14 8 11 — 56
Kailua: Micah Tagupa 0, Nainoa Peters 7, Everett Torres-Kahapea 20, Lydell Romero 3, Kaniala Williams 0, Robert Kanoa III 0, Isaiah Hopson 19, John Sniffen 0.
Moanalua: Isaiah Sugiura 15, Blayze Simon 2, Rocky Ramones 2, DiAeris McRaven 12, Geremy Robinson 12, Kyle Hughley 4, Elijah McGruder 9.
3-point goals: Kailua 2 (Torres-Kahapea, Hopson), Moanalua 2 (Sugiura 2)

OIA Playoffs

Updated: Feb. 13
First round
2/5Aiea (W4)*Roosevelt (E5)Roos, 69-47
2/5Kahuku (E3)Pearl City (W6)Kah, 49-36
2/5Leilehua (W3)Kalaheo (E6)Kalh, 53-47
2/5Kalani (E4)Campbell (W5)Kaln, 61-44
2/6Moanalua (E1)RooseveltMoan, 71-59
2/6Mililani (W2)KahukuKah, 39-29
2/6Kailua (E2)KalaheoKail, 58-55
2/6Kapolei (W1)KalaniKapo, 37-35 (OT)
Consolation semifinals—At Higher Seed
2/11MililaniRooseveltMil, 69-55
2/11KalaniKalaheoKalh, 62-43
Semifinals — At McKinley
2/11MoanaluaKahukuMoan, 66-58
2/11KailuaKapoleiKail, 60-58
Fifth place—At Higher Seed
2/13MililaniKalaheoKalh, 36-25
Third place—At Higher Seed
2/13KahukuKapoleiKapo, 68-64
Championship — At McKinley
2/13MoanaluaKailuaMoan, 56-49 (OT)
2/5Waianae (W2)Kaimuki (E3)Kaim, 48-31
2/5Kaiser (E2)Waipahu (W3)Kais, 61-42
2/6Farrington (E1)KaimukiFar, 75-47
2/6Nanakuli (W1)KaiserKais, 54-44
Championship— At McKinley
2/13FarringtonKaiserFar, 56-43
* — @ Roosevelt


  1. Sweaty Murphy February 14, 2019 7:31 am

    …And as your reward for winning the OIA… you get to potentially play ALL THREE ILH TEAMS! CONGRATULATIONS, MOANALUA! LOL!

  2. notes February 14, 2019 8:30 pm

    this is how ILH destroys competitive balance. they recruit heavily and then they make sure that as much of their all-star recruit teams as possible go into the state tourney to demolish OIA schools and recruit even more of their players to play on their team

  3. #Baller4Life February 16, 2019 6:50 am

    I haven’t seen two teams more skilled in flopping (acting). Do they practice this? Girls seem to take actual hits in this state, while boys flop before they get hit. I wish they’d play basketball! They should start calling the excessive flopping. I’m sure everything will get “better” in the HHSAA tournament!?

    Dont get me wrong, there’s a lot of talent on these teams. I’d like to see them go up against the tougher girls of the HHSAA, or even just the OIA.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

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