LAHAINA - Lahainaluna High School boys basketball head coach John Dudley is a mentor who sees the big picture. He joins the growing list of Luna leaders that realize the value of the integrity of our village of Lahaina. He comprehends the strength of the history of the community in general, and of the youth athletic programs here on the West Side in particular.
"There is no other community like Lahaina that offers the support that programs like Lahainaluna basketball gets," said Coach Dudley last week from the Jimmie H. Greig Gymnasium on campus.
"That support is key to our success, and to the success that the girls basketball and the wrestling teams have achieved... those are the programs that we try to emulate."
The team is currently in second place amid the final round.
Within that community network, Dudley continued, is the West Maui Youth Basketball Association, which has become a model for youth athletic programs across the State of Hawaii and recently tipped off its 25th year under the guidance of Commissioner Don Rosenthal.
"It is unbelievable what Don has done for the kids in the community and for Lahainaluna basketball," Dudley commented.
Coach Dudley added that the Menehune hoops program for intermediate school age kids in Lahaina also stands out as a key component to the success of the high school teams.
It is no secret that the Lahaina Girls Menehune League team has had a profound effect on the Lady Lunas program, which has won eight consecutive Maui Interscholastic League championships, gone to three straight state final fours and won it all in 2010. The team currently holds the all-sport MIL record for victories at 72.
"Nick Webb is doing a tremendous job with the Menehune boys team," said Coach Dudley. "He is one of our coaches that has bought into our program, and this is very important to the success of our team. This is our number one priority... Nick has done this and has his boys running the same things that we do up here at the high school."
Dudley had high praise for his Luna staff - Lawrence Carnicelli, Johnny Ibuos and Dan Williams - in forming a dedicated leadership team.
"They are all a blessing, as they have bought into the program and all understand the nuts and bolts of the game of basketball and take the time to implement and teach the boys. They, too, are a part of the Lahaina community support group."
The Luna boys, the two-time defending MIL champs, face a tough task to three-peat, as the undefeated Baldwin Bears currently sit atop the standings with Lahainaluna and King Kekaulike tied for the runner-up spot as the third and final round of play began last week.
"We face some crucial games coming up here in the next few weeks, and we need to win some of them to go to states," said Dudley.
"We are a young team, and we are going through a growing process, as we started the season with a group that had little varsity playing experience," he continued.
"We're learning together on the go and building a foundation block-by-block to find out what works for us. We as coaches see this young team growing up, getting better as they improve game by game and peak at the right time."
Leading the way for the Lunas are senior returning players and team captains Foalu Tauese and Gavin Kahaialii, along with classmates John Mishima and Feleti Taufa, both lettermen from last year's squad, and Spencer Spencer-Perieff.
Juniors on the roster are returnee Emil Cariaga, joined by Jake Francis, Charles Vierra and Manny Brands, and sophomores Nick Vierra, Peni Taufa, Joshua Chapital and Branden Agapay.
"This is a fun, rewarding experience for all of us, and it is exciting with these big games coming up. I just can't overemphasize the importance of the community support we've received. You've all stood behind us, and we appreciate and are grateful for that," Coach Dudley concluded.