By Paul Honda
The headline read, “Moanalua soars past Kalaheo.”
True enough. It also could’ve read “Moanalua soars over Kalaheo”, referring to Marcus Monroe’s dunk show.
For Kalaheo, great patience (spreading the floor in the first quarter and limiting Moanalua’s possessions), a disciplined defense (a tight 2-3 zone with Aaron Fernandez at center) and the fortitude to make a late-game run made it was a step forward despite the 57-49 loss.
Remember, when the teams met on Jan. 2, Kalaheo trailed 46-20 in the second half and simply was never really in the game from the opening tip.
But Moanalua showed a little something last night, as well. Na Menehune never really got hot for a sustained amount of time, but were fairly consistent on both ends of the floor. That transition offense was instant offense. There hasn’t been a team in the Oahu Interscholastic Association that got the ball upcourt as quickly yet this season.
Therein lies the rub. When they get it upcourt, Josiah Kauhola is as apt to fire an open 3 as he is to lob a perfect pass to Monroe, who had two spectacular dunks in the game. It was enough to fire up a large following of Menehune fans who made the trek to Kalaheo.
That’s right, dozens of blue-clad Moanalua fans made the trip. They already know something most of the state is finding out (via OC 16): Na Menehune don’t just win, but they win with pizazz. When Monroe threw down the alley-oop dunk, that woke up the entire gym and shook some of the championship banners hanging on Kalaheo’s walls.
But when Monroe went over a Kalaheo defender on a fastbreak dunk, it sent a message to the rest of the OIA, even the state: We can beat you and take your heart at the same time.
Monroe doesn’t just dunk. He elevates like few other top scorers, rebounders and shot blockers in the islands. The 6-foot-4 senior liked the one-handed takeoff dunk better.
“I was going to pass the ball. I didn’t know where my legs were,” Monroe said, meaning that he wasn’t sure if he was still strong after battling a flu during the week.
• Monroe spent a good chunk of the game covering Kalaheo’s Aaron Fernandez, the sharpshooter who has scored as many as 41 points (against Campbell) this season. Monroe occasionally reaches and picks up cheap fouls, as he did near midcourt in the second half while covering another player. That brings forth this question: Why doesn’t Fernandez, who is 6-3, post more often?
Kalaheo coach Chico Furtado suggested just that.
“He told me to get on the post, but we couldn’t get the ball inside,” said Fernandez, who overcame a cold start to finish with 22 points, mostly on short jumpers in transition — several were in major traffic near the foul line.
Monroe relished the opportunity to square up against the streaky Fernandez.
“I know his dribbles aren’t that good. He’s a good shooter, but he’s only got one move offensively,” Monroe said.
“Aaron’s not used to being in the post,” Furtado said. “The rest of our team is still trying to find an identity. It’s a fine line between leaning on Aaron too much or not. I like the way Wilson (Macleod) attacked the basket. Kevin (Leong) did a good job.”
• Moanalua has a bench that is probably unmatched in the OIA. The team’s hustle plays often come from Wesley Armbrust and Dexter Williams, a pair of quick, aggressive forwards.
“They’ve got a long bench, bringing in a lot of fresh players,” Fernandez said.
• Freshman Marcus Keene gave Moanalua a nice lift in the first half with a couple of 3-pointers from the corner, a new wrinkle — and another worry — for opposing defenses to deal with. Aside from those treys, however, Moanalua shot poorly from deep (3-for-17) against Kalaheo’s 2-3 matchup zone.
“We’re improving and playing as a team,” Fernandez said. “Our defense picks it up.”
• Kalaheo shot 45 percent (17-for-38) from the field and 64 percent from the foul line (14-for-22). Moanalua finished at 53 percent from the field (20-for-38) and just 45 percent at the line (14-for-31).
• Kalaheo had a 25-18 edge on the boards.
• Each team committed seven turnovers.