LAHAINA - Although the Lahainaluna High School boys basketball team came up short against Maranatha (Calif.) on Friday afternoon, the tough test the Lunas provided makes them look like a potential Maui Interscholastic League contender this season.
The Minutemen won 59-53 at the Lahaina Civic Center, and will play in the Lahainaluna Invitational final today against Curtis (Wash.).
Lahainaluna will face Molokai for fifth place.
Maranatha (Calif.) High School’s Zach Smalley shoots as Lahainaluna’s Cyrus Kama defends during the first quarter of the Minutemen’s 59-53 victory over the Lunas on Friday at Lahaina Civic Center in a Lahainaluna Invitational game.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Maranatha, which has eight seniors, as well as eight players over 6 feet tall, led by 12 at halftime before Lahainaluna made a comeback bid.
"I'll be honest, it was pretty intimidating at first," said Lunas senior Manny Brands, who led the team with 18 points and eight rebounds. "But once you get to start playing, all you've got to do is box out. Coach told us we could do this and all we have to do is play all-out."
Brands and Emil Cariaga are two of three seniors on the Lahainaluna roster, which also includes five sophomores and three juniors.
"We're young and it shows up every once in a while," said Lunas coach John Dudley. "We're going to make a lot of sophomore mistakes and we're going to have to live with that as coaches. But as the season goes on, those will hopefully be eliminated and teams won't have those easy buckets."
Lahainaluna outscored Maranatha 16-12 in the third quarter - Cariaga ended the period with a buzzer-beating layup - to pull within 43-35, and got as close as four points in the fourth.
"I thought they played with more effort than we did," said Minutemen coach Tim Godley. "They executed really well and made big shots. Our effort level wasn't that great and the result was, we had a ballgame."
Maranatha's Jeremy Major scored nine of his team-leading 18 points in the final five minutes.
"Maranatha was getting a lot of offensive rebounds," Dudley said. "So a lot of it was telling our players to block out, and from the second quarter on (the Minutemen) weren't getting a lot of their second- and third- chance points that they got in the first."
Cariaga hit three 3-pointers and finished with 15 points.
Michael DeMeester scored 13 points for the Minutemen, and Ron Gore added 10.
Despite the losing effort, Dudley was pleased with his team's offensive output.
"There's an old cliche in the MIL: first one to 50 wins," he said. "Historically, the team that scores 50 usually wins the game, so naturally our goal is to at least hit 50. If we do that and play a little better defense, good things will happen."
* Chris Sugidono is at email@example.com