By Paul Honda
Nearly two years have passed since the last time Moanalua beat Kahuku in boys hoops.
The one holdover from that 48-46 win by Na Menehune in late January of 2008: Marcus Monroe, who was only a sophomore and scored 14 points. It was Stevie Austin’s free throws in the final 2 seconds the gave Moanalua the final margin of victory. Ryan Hua had 13 points in that win.
Kahuku? Much different today. Jray Galeai, who had 24 points in that loss, is long gone, now at BYU playing football. Even the coach at that time, Nathan James, stepped down after that season.
That makes tonight’s matchup a little extra interesting. Hiram Akina coached at Mililani in that 2007-08 season, leading the Trojans to the OIA Red title. They beat Moanalua in the league final 49-34.
This season’s Kahuku squad is finally meshing with a lot of new starters, but Nehoa Akina remains a constant in the backcourt, arguably the best long-range shooter in the state, or at least one of the most consistent.
Monroe is the matchup problem for any opponent, able to hit 3-pointers and stretch defenses to the perimeter. Defensively, he’s one of the best shot blockers in the islands at 6-foot-4 and change.
Kahuku has size; 6-4 Shairone Thompson scored 24 points in a recent win. Individual matchups aside, Moanalua (10-4, 3-0 OIA) and Kahuku (7-5, 3-0) are looking for that inside track in the East. Though a win amounts to better seeding for the playoffs and little more (a first-round bye for the top two finishers), it’s all about confidence and momentum as February nears.
Add a packed house and live TV audience, and Moanalua’s gym should be rocking. Tip-off is roughly 7 p.m., depending on the length of the earlier Farrington-Kaimuki battle.