Basketball: Hammerheads win again

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All the significant intangibles, like hustling back on defense, helped the Hawaii Hammerheads have a better showing in the rematch against Maui United.

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All the significant intangibles, like hustling back on defense, helped the Hawaii Hammerheads have a better showing in the rematch against Maui United.

Behind balanced scoring and better transition defense, Hawaii flattened the Valley Isle visitors 104-92 in a preseason game Sunday before an estimated 450 fans at UH-Hilo gym.

The Hammerheads, especially those from the mainland, will depart for their hometowns and return Oct. 1 for training camp.

Hawaii plays Solomon Islands Oct. 14-15 at Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium in the inaugural Oceania Basketball Association season.

The Hammerheads played Maui again because the Kauai Stars didn’t have enough players. And maybe it was a good thing because fans got to see former UHH standout Scotty Prather one last time.

Prather couldn’t find his rhythm and finished with 10 points on 3 of 11 shooting. Jacob Havron scored a game-high 32 points, and athletic gunner Cody Tereso added 29 points.

Aukai Wong was again Hawaii’s scoring leader with 23 points on 8 of 19 shooting while Joel Feigler came off with bench and had 18 points on 7 of 11 shooting.

Hammerhead youngster Calvin Mattos continued his strong showing with 12 points on 5 of 10 shooting with six rebounds. The other hometown boys were Isaiah Ekau (five points) and Lanaki Apele (four points).

“The one thing I preached to the guys was our transition defense,” Hawaii coach Kevin Williams said. “I was happy that we held them to under 100 points (Hawaii beat Maui 119-113 on Saturday).”

Across the stat sheet, the two teams were fairly even. Hawaii had 30 turnovers to Maui’s 33 giveaways. Each had 53 rebounds. The Hammerheads barely outshot Maui United, 44 percent to 42 percent from the field.

One difference was the play off the bench. Feigler, the 6-foot-11 stretch four, knocked down 3 of 6 from 3-point range. Nick Demusis attacked the rim for 14 points, and Anthony Gallagher produced a double-double with 11 point and 13 boards.

“My mindset was to be aggressive,” said Demusis, a Mililani High graduate who played at Whittier College. “When you get inside, you open up the outside. I thought we looked a lot better today than Saturday. Our transition defense was definitely better.”

Demusis now lives in California, but before he returns home he and Brandon Matano will play in the Hawaii College Basketball League championship on Tuesday on Oahu.

One teammate will be on the opposing sideline: Wong, who scored 30 points for champion Electricians Hawaii last year.

There were two homegrown products on Maui’s roster: Nick Fisher (Pahoa), who had four points, and Lucas St. George (Waiakea), who scored two points.

Hawaii led 58-53 at halftime, but the first 24 minutes belonged to Havron, a 6-foot-6 forward, who played at Jamestown University in North Dakota.

In the first half, Havron, who looks like a linebacker, established good position on the right block and ate lunch there. He was crazy hot with 22 points on 8 of 11 shooting, sinking indefensible jump hooks.

On the other hand, the Hammerheads relied on long-distance jump shots and didn’t work the ball enough for easy, open looks.

Still, they led by five points at the break because Feigler and Wong each went 3 of 5 from beyond the arc and had 14 and 13 points, respectively.

The game’s highlight-reel play came in the second quarter when Wong rocketed toward the basket and threw an alley-oop pass to Matano, who flushed a slam dunk to get Hawaii within 32-27.

Right before halftime, Feigler offered the fans a rare sight when the 6-11 slender big guy dribble-penetrated from the free throw line and put up a shot. He was hacked, his shot went down, and his foul shot was good for a 54-53 lead with 1:04 left.

Hawaii played tougher defense than the day before, especially racing back to limit Maui’s fast-break opportunities after misses.

The Hammerheads still had ball-handling issues; they had 32 turnovers on Saturday. And with less than a week of practice time, their help-side defense is a work in progress.

But the identity of the team is slowing starting to take shape. When Wong and Feigler are feeling it, they’re deadly 3-point assassins.

From deep, Wong was 5 of 13 and Feigler 3 of 6. Even the 6-8 Gallagher, who played at Evergreen State College, drilled 2 of 6 from long range.

Demusis and pretty much every other Hammerhead, including the tall guy Feigler, can attack the rim.

Through two games, Hawaii hasn’t exhibited much of a post offense, but that’s small potatoes, especially when the 3-points shots (12 of 38) are falling just enough, the bench contributes and the defense plays tough.

“We have to learn to utilize our size. We tried to play one-on-one against their 2-3 zone, and that won’t work,” Williams said. “But we’re still learning each other’s strength and weakness. We’re going to be a high-powered offense.”

The Hammerheads’ hallmark is their run-and-gun, entertaining offense. If they return to training camp with Sunday’s effort in mind, maybe their defensive intensity will continue to be a significant intangible.

And not all the important little things are on-the-court stuff. Williams is from Houston, but he already understands the concept of aloha.

Asked about the smaller crowd, instead of disappointment, Williams expressed appreciation.

“It was a great crowd, and the people who came gave us a lot of energy,” he said. “I’m glad they came, and we’re looking forward to the regular season.”

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Maui 25 28 29 10 — 92

Hawaii 21 37 28 18 — 104

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