Luna boys basketball team working on good habits that can decide big games
LAHAINA – Lahainaluna High School boys basketball head coach Jason Justus is a man that carries a determined, focused and confident countenance through life. A collegiate player at Iowa State and a top Maui Interscholastic League referee for a decade or so, the third-year Luna mentor thus brings an experienced and knowledgeable mindset to the program.
Coach Justus has instilled this concentration into his charges. On the sidelines in the Jimmie H. Greig Gymnasium, you can sense that same focus flowing into the student athletes in his command during practice. No wasted movement; no wasted time on the court – these Lunas are models of efficiency and determination.
Couple this coaching acumen with the support of the Westside Hoops organization led by Dan Williams, and a definitive formula for success is achieved. Over the last five years, Westside Hoops has established a partnership with a Reno affiliate and established a summer basketball camp on the Mainland. Most of the Lahainaluna roster has participated in the program for several years, and, coupled with a conditioning retreat at the Keanae YMCA facility where Coach Justus is employed, the results are championship quality campaigns.
Add to this the hoops introduction provided by the participation of most of the players in the West Maui Youth Basketball League, and the results are highly skilled and knowledgeable athletes.
The Lunas are two-time defending MIL champs and have tipped off the 2016-17 season with strong performances at two Oahu Interscholastic Association tournaments and a 57-28 double up over Kamehameha Maui in their MIL opener. They will be hosting their own tournament at Lahaina Civic Center this week.
Justus is joined by assistants Freddie Baisa, Kalei Houpu, Rachel Kane and junior varsity head coach Alec Austin on the Luna coaching staff. The player roster is led by senior returning tri-captains Jeremy Santos, Carver Lake and Tevaki Faleta; returning juniors Carter Stockham, Iverson Turno, Aukai Kama and CJ Palma, as well as classmates Isaiah Tanner, Koa Evalu Robinson and Charlie Hafoka; and sophomore Reece Pascua.
“This is a very athletic group,” said Coach Justus, following a pre-game shoot-around before the Kamehameha game last week. “They are experienced, as many of them have been a part of some very big games and won big games.”
The Lunas finished the regular season at 11-1 and then went two and out at the state tournament last year, but the core of the current team also was part of the team’s MIL title and fifth place trophy at states the season before.
“We’ll mix up our defenses and try to keep our opponents guessing,” he said. “Generally, we’ll go man-to-man and do whatever it takes to wake us up and get going; try to get breakaways and run. Our athleticism helps, and we are big and agile. We’ll run a motion offense when we have the ball.
“All in all, it will be the little things that make a difference. We are focusing on small things to develop good habits that will make a difference in February. We’ve had some good bonding thus far and we’re buying into doing the right things so far. There are some new coaches in the MIL, so we’ll have to be ready for some different looks. It will be a challenge, because there will be some wildcards out there – some young and scrappy opponents to contend with.”
Justus served up his appreciation to Williams and Westside Hoops for all of their efforts, to the County of Maui for the use of Lahaina Civic Center for summer practices, and to the community for their growing support of the boys program.
“Lately, the fans have been sticking around more for our games and not leaving after the girls win,” he said with a wry grin.