Damuni, Brost keyed big wins for Kahuku, HPA

Male Athlete of the Week: Marcus Damuni, Kahuku

After a couple of years in the shadows, it's Marcus Damuni's time to shine for the Kahuku boys basketball team.

The 6-foot-3 senior center and third-year varsity player has gone from being a role player as a sophomore to "the guy" this season. Damuni netted his eighth double-digit scoring game last Thursday with a game-high 19 points in the Red Raiders' 52-42 win at Kalaheo to close out the regular season.

"He played really well," Kahuku coach Brandyn Akana said. "He was our go-to guy and he really controlled the middle on defense and also on offense and those guys couldn't stop him in the post."

The Red Raiders trailed by a bucket after the opening quarter, but as Damuni got hot in the second stanza, so did they, outscoring the Mustangs 14-2 in the period.

"The first quarter he kind of struggled — we all did as a team — and then we had a big second quarter and he was a big part of that and then the third quarter he did well again. He took people off the dribble. He was just a monster in the post," Akana said.

Akana noted his favorite part of Damuni's game is that the big man is effective both offensively and defensively.

"Rebounding has been Marcus's skill since his sophomore year; he's always been a great rebounder. He has a great nose for the ball, great timing, but he does it on both ends and a lot of bigs either do it on the offensive side, but not the defensive side, but he does it on both sides and as a coach you always love that because he can rebound, he plays hard defense, he gets great positioning and offensively he can score. He's a guy who can get 25 (points) a night," Akana said.

Damuni is averaging a team-best 12.8 points per game in Oahu Interscholastic Association East play. His 19-point effort against Kalaheo matched his season-high and came two days after being held to nine points in a 63-51 loss to then-No. 8 Moanalua, which snapped the Red Raiders' six-game win streak.

"He did have a tough one that night," Akana said of last Tuesday's defeat at Na Menehune's home gym. "He didn't start off well. I think he also got into foul trouble, he never got into a rhythm, and Moanalua has good bigs, but it was great to see him bounce back (against Kalaheo). He's one of our captains and a lot of the young guys look up to him, so for him to do that was great to see."

As a sophomore during the 2016-'17 season, Damuni contributed off the bench as Kahuku captured the Division I state championship. Last year — his first as a starter — Damuni served as a complementary piece in the post to All-Hawaii D1 Player of the Year Tolu Smith.

"He's just been around for a long time and so he's very experienced. He got a lot of playing time as a sophomore. Last year he played alongside Tolu and so whereas Tolu got a lot of the attention, Marcus did a lot of the dirty work. Tolu was Tolu and Marcus could have stepped into that role, but when you have a guy like Tolu, you're the second man in the post, you get all the weak side rebounds when they're doubling Tolu, you get wide open shots, so he did really good last year," Akana said of Damuni, who now weighs about 225 pounds. "It was a given that when Tolu graduated, that it was gonna be Marcus's time and he was gonna be the next post player for us, so he just brings all of that experience and he's a lot bigger now and smarter and he's one of those skilled bigs where he's very consistent and just solid. He's been doing really well for us."

Damuni also excels on the gridiron, where he lines up at defensive end or outside linebacker for the Red Raiders in the fall. Akana said Damuni is currently mulling scholarship offers from several schools to continue playing football.

"He loves basketball, but football is gonna be his sport at the next level," Akana said. "He's just a leader. He's quiet, not a loud kid. He just shows up to practice, goes to work and leads by example to all of our younger players. He's an older kid, so he's very mature and soft-spoken."

The win over the Mustangs secured the OIA East's third seed in this week's 12-team Division I league tournament.

"If we had lost, it would have been us, Kalani, Roosevelt and Kalaheo all tied. We beat Roosevelt and Kalani, but lost to Kalaheo, so that was a big win and it was on their court and at their senior night, so I mean, any time you can beat somebody at home — especially at Kalaheo, where there is so much basketball history there — if you can beat them on senior night, that's huge," Akana said.

The Red Raiders (8-4 league, 18-8 overall) opened the playoffs with a 49-36 win over West sixth seed Pearl City Tuesday night and will visit West second-seeded Mililani at 6 p.m. Wednesday in a quarterfinal-round game with a state-tournament berth on the line.

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