They’re the cardiac kids, and coach Kirk Ronolo would admit it’s by design.
Moanalua stunned the top team in the OIA West, Radford, 42-37, on Saturday night to reach the Division I final. Ronolo’s squad, the runner-up in the OIA East, unleashed full-court pressure midway through the second quarter to open a seven-point halftime lead.
Na Menehune didn’t relent from that point on, even after the home team rallied for a 29-27 lead early in the final quarter with leading scorer and rebounder Angel Asaah sidelined by a chin injury.
“It’s too bad. She gets hurt hustling, throwing herself on the floor,” Radford coach Charles Chong said. “That’s typical of her heart.”
And yet, they had their chance.
“It was a nice place to be. We just wanted to give ourselves a chance to win at the end and we had our opportunities. We had an opportunity at the front of the rim, free-throw opportunities,” Chong said. “It just didn’t fall tonight. I’m real proud of the girls and how they battled without one of their main leaders on the team.”
Moanalua closed the battle with a 13-6 run, deploying that 2-2-1 fullcourt press to hinder the scrappy Lady Rams.
Mercedes Smith led Moanalua with 12 points and Manu Itula added 10. Guard Zia Rapada connected on one of her two clutch corner 3s and fed Smith and Itula on key fastbreak layups, all during the final stretch.
Now Moanalua has the task of battling No. 8 Kahuku for the crown on Wednesday.
“It was nerve-wracking. My thing with these girls is execution,” Ronolo said. “I’m a defensive-minded coach. I worry little about offense. We’re going to generate points if we play good defense. At halftime, we made adjustments to try and keep Angel off the boards. She’s a hell of a player. It was hard work for these ladies, but they did good. I hope Angel is fine. I don’t know what happened to her. I hope she’s able to participate at states. It fell into our advantage and we had to take advantage of it.”
As for the fullcourt pressure, Ronolo played his cards a bit differently.
“My assistant wanted to start off in the press, but our zone defense has been working well for us. Let’s use it when we have to and jump into it. When he told me to call it, we called it at the midway point of the second quarter,” Ronolo said. “The game was close. We needed some separation.”
That mini-run created a 23-16 lead at the half.
“The girls executed it well. We got turnovers, generated points and here we are. Blessed. Blessed. My first time here (in the OIA final). It’s emotional,” Ronolo said.
Now there are four days to prep for one of the state’s hottest teams.
“Kahuku is a tough team. They smashed us (60-37) in our second game of the (regular) season,” Ronolo recalled. “It was early in the season. We weren’t there yet. We’ve made some adjustments and a little bit more work and adjustments, hopefully we’ll make it a competitive game for Kahuku. I always look forward to playing the best. They’re smart.”
That’s the rub. Kahuku has dominated the boards, but the Lady Raiders move the ball well.
“They’re deceiving. Leiah (Naeata) works hard to get the ball, so our defenders have to work two, three times harder than her to prevent her from getting the ball. That girl is an amazing athlete. They have deceptive speed. I look at them and they’re big, but they’re quick. They’re moving so well. It’s going to take a lot of work,” Ronolo said.
Radford will play at Mililani in the third-place game on Wednesday. Radford has the higher seed as the West 1, but because its gym will be busy with the D-I and D-II title games, the Lady Rams have to travel on Wednesday.
PlayoffsUpdated: Jan. 29
|1/22||Leilehua (W4)||Kaiser (E5)||Kais, 48-45 (OT)|
|1/22||Castle (E3)||Kapolei (W6)||Kapo, 37-33|
|1/22||Waipahu (W3)||Kalani (E6)||Kaln, 50-39|
|1/22||Roosevelt (E4)||Nanakuli (W5)||Nan, 48-39|
|1/23||Mililani (W2)||Kapolei||Mil, 37-21|
|1/23||Moanalua (E2)||Kalani||Moan, 51-38|
|1/23||Radford (W1)||Nanakuli||Rad, 47-42|
|Consolation semifinals—at Higher Seed|
|Semifinals — At Radford|
|Fifth place—At Higher seed|
|Third place—At Higher seed|
|Championship — At Radford|
|1/22||Pearl City (W2)||McKinley (E3)||McK, 46-37|
|1/22||Kalaheo (E2)||Waialua (W3)||Wail, 53-52|
|1/23||Farrington (E1)||McKinley||Far, 47-20|
|1/23||Campbell (W1)||Waialua||Camp, 49-24|
|Third place—At Higher seed|
|1/25||McKinley||Waialua||McK, 53-43 (OT)|
|Championship— At Radford|