Moanalua loaded with potential


POSTED: Tuesday, December 29, 2009

SIXTH IN A SERIES » There were times last season when the boys basketball team at Moanalua seemed destined for greatness.

With a fairly young, but creative backcourt and a long-range threat at center, Na Menehune seemed to have the formula to counter big teams like Kahuku.

They had “;it.”;

But along the way, they found ways to lose games down the stretch. The heartbreak became almost expected once February arrived.

Moanalua lost to a slew of Top 10 teams—including Kalaheo, Kaimuki and Kalaheo again by a total of 14 points in an eight-day span. After a two-point loss to Kahuku and an elimination-game loss to Campbell, Moanalua's promising season was done (12-13 overall, 6-8 OIA).

The good news? The scoring sparkplugs of that team are back, and they're tearing it up in December. Coaches and media have pegged Na Menehune at No. 5 in the Star-Bulletin Preseason Top 10.

On paper: Na Menehune are 6-3 in nonconference play so far, losing only to ILH powerhouse Punahou, nationally ranked Gonzaga (D.C.) and Hamilton (Ariz.).

Marcus Monroe, a 6-foot-3 senior, protects the paint with his long frame. Most teams have a dilemma in covering Monroe, who can get hot from the 3-point arc quickly, pulling centers out of their comfort zone. He's also finding ways to score from mid-range and on the low post, becoming a more consistent scoring threat.

Josiah Kauhola nailed six 3-pointers and had 26 points against Gonzaga.

The skinny: Seven of Moanalua's losses last season were by seven points or fewer, often determined by turnovers in the final 3 minutes. Coach Greg Tacon has seen significant progress this season.

“;Everybody's just smarter. But we haven't been in a lot of close-game situations yet, so the jury's still out,”; Tacon said.

The arrival of freshman guard Marcus Keene bolsters the backcourt tremendously. Keene is deft with both hands and changes gears smoothly.

Tacon has often found ways to maximize personnel at Moanalua without having great height.

X factor: Richard Villasenor brings two years of varsity experience to the table. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound football standout is the muscle Moanalua needs down low.