The Barn hosts University of Hawaii vs. Chaminade Saturday night
Molokai basketball fans saw a regular season University of Hawaii game — for the first time ever in any sport — Saturday night at The Barn.
The Chaminade University Silverswords (3-5, 0-0 PacWest) flew to Molokai Saturday morning while the UH Rainbow Warriors (4-3, 0-0 Big West) had arrived the night before for this unique contest.
Approximately 2,000 fans filled The Barn to the rafters hoping to see a high scoring, high flying, competitive college basketball game. They were not disappointed. Chaminade kept it close, creeping to within 7 points late in the second half, but ultimately it was the size and depth of the UH squad that won the game, 104-93.
Local hoops fans can thank Brandyn Akana, the former Molokai High School standout player, for this special event. Akana, who played his college ball at BYU-Hawaii, is now in his third year as assistant coach at UH under Gib Arnold. Akana’s older brother, Jarrin Akana, was the 1988 state player of the year for the Farmers and went on to play for BYU-Hawaii and UH. Jarrin Akana, who was also at Saturday’s game, has been an assistant coach for several NBA teams.
Before the game, Brandyn Akana said, “(Molokai residents) just don’t get the opportunity to see college players in an NCAA game. I know they watch UH on television, so this will be great. To actually get to see them in person, it’s going to be a huge event.”
The trip home was special to Akana. “It’s hard not to think back, just all the people I was able to learn from and things like that,” Akana said. “It’s who I am today, is from experience on Molokai. I’m going to see past coaches, good teachers, a lot of good friends, a lot of family members.”
Akana and the UH team had already been on Molokai during the weekend of Oct. 27-28 for a practice and a team bonding experience. During that visit the team members signed autographs after the practice and had a chance to do some hunting and fishing on Molokai.
Prior to the game, Pastor Bill Umi led the crowd in a prayer and a moment of silence for the victims of the tragic shooting in Newtown, Conn. just a day earlier. His daughter Esther then stood at midcourt and sang the “Star Spangled Banner” and “Hawai’i Pono’i.”
Both teams appeared comfortable playing at The Barn for the first time, shooting high percentages while running the floor hard. UH shot 64 percent (25-for-39) in the first half, including 73 percent (8-for-11) from 3-point range. Chaminade completed 44 percent of their first half shots (16-36) and 61 percent of 3-pointers (11-18). It was the sharpshooting of Chaminade that kept the game close as UH finished the half with a 63-49 lead.
As the game wore on, it was the size of Hawaii that made the difference. For the game, UH grabbed 45 rebounds to Chaminade’s 24.
The frontcourt of the Rainbow Warriors, made up of Vander Joaquim (6-foot-10, 245 pounds), Christian Standhardinger (6-8, 215) and Isaac Fotu (6-8, 240) proved to be too much for the Silverswords, whose biggest player, Rhys Murphy, stands 6-foot-7, 200 pounds. The big three for UH scored a combined 49 points while clearing 24 rebounds
To change the pace, Chaminade opened the second half with a slower, more deliberate attack. Both teams seemed to cool off in their shooting but the Silverswords were not able to gain on the Rainbow Warriors double digit lead.
With less than four minutes remaining a brief scuffle broke out between the two teams, leading to the ejection of UH’s Jace Tavita. Chaminade’s De’Andre Haskins, returning to the team from a recent injury, sunk four straight free throws to make the score 95-85. Haskins and Bennie Murphy led the team in scoring with 21 points each. A 3-pointer by Chaminade’s Lee Bailey cut the lead to 97-90 but that was as close as they would get.
Molokai fans were also treated to all the trappings of a big time game. T-shirts were thrown into the crowd, a play-by-play announcer sat courtside and a year’s worth of Pepsi was given away for winning shooting contests held during timeouts. At halftime, a group of local ringers played a seventh grade team wearing matching “Akana” T-shirts.
(Personal note — Another first for Molokai: Within two minutes of the final buzzer, a photocopy of the official box score with final statistics was passed out to all media. For a moment I thought I was at a big time college basketball game on the mainland.)