Moanalua booted out of state tourney
Moanalua's amazing run in the boys state basketball tournament took a drastic turn downward yesterday.
The HHSAA ousted Na Menehune from the tourney because the team used an academically ineligible player in the first two rounds. As a result, the third-place game between Moanalua and Konawaena was canceled.
Moanalua coach Greg Tacon was saddened by the turn of events. Confused, too.
"We should never have been allowed to take the floor last night," he said of the semifinal loss to Kamehameha-Hawaii. "What happens if we would've won?"
Moanalua High School uses a manual system to keep track of grade checks for about 350 student-athletes, Tacon said. At 2:15 p.m. on Friday, hours before Moanalua's semifinal game, a counselor informed school administration that a starter on the basketball team had a failing grade in a core class.
The school called the OIA, which informed the HHSAA.
"I got a call 6 minutes before the game. Our administration called my trainer," Tacon said.
Moanalua, which upset ILH champion and tournament top seed Iolani in Thursday's quarterfinals, held the player out of Friday's game, but the team was permitted to play.
By yesterday, however, the team was barred from the tournament and was told it would not participate in the procession at halftime of the final. The procession involves all teams in the tournament, when all players and coaches are brought to the court and announced.
Tacon said the problem could have been avoided if the failing grade had been reported to him earlier. The process was slow, however.
"It's a foggy situation. From Jan. 23 to Feb. 23, nothing is said," Tacon said. "(the player) has been fine since November, then this happens. It's still our responsibility to track these things."
The positive is that changes are coming.
"Our principal told me that if anything has been learned, the way we check grades needs to be changed," Tacon said.
The effect on the team was nothing short of a roller-coaster ride. "Within the basketball program, we're not pointing fingers or looking for blame," Tacon said. "One minute, the kids are crying, and then they're laughing at how surreal all of it is."
Konawaena coach Donald Awa was stunned by the news. "We just want to play again," he said this afternoon. "Some of our parents just flew in last night to see us play today."
Tacon was apologetic to Awa and the Wildcats. "I know this sucks for them. I'm really sorry this happened," he said.
Punahou girls basketball coach Mike Taylor put it succinctly.
"It's sad," he said. "This means Stevie Austin's last game was cancelled."