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UPDATED: Warriors hold off D-II Adams State, 87-77

Turning to its youthful reserves against a stubborn NCAA Division II opponent, Hawai’i turned back visiting Adams State, 87-77, in non-conference men’s basketball action Monday night.

A patiently supportive Stan Sheriff Center crowd of 4,515 (tickets issued) watched Gibson Johnson score 19 points and true freshman Samuta Avea add 13 points and five rebounds off the bench as the Warriors improved to 4-1 heading into Saturday’s road game at Utah, while the Grizzlies fell to 2-5.

Sophomores Leland Green and Brandon Thomas each also added 13 points and junior Brocke Stepteau chipped in with 12 points.

“We were very fortunate to get the win tonight,” UH coach Eran Ganot said. “If it weren’t for the performances of the two young guys off the bench (Avea and Thomas) who earned their (playing) time, we wouldn’t have come out victorious. We’ve got work to do, we’ve got to acknowledge that and confront the brutal facts in life, it’s hit us in the face. But like I told the guys, we’re going to enjoy the win, too. We’re not going to be miserable, pouting and all that stuff because … that would be a disservice to an Adams State team that came in ready to roll. Give them credit.”

With his team trailing 70-56 following Avea’s left-handed scoop shot with 6:17 remaining, Grizzlies center Mike Thomas scored on a putback 19 seconds later to ignite a stunning 11-0 run capped by Shane Johnson’s pull-up 3-pointer from the right wing which closed it to 70-67 with 4:36 left.

Stepteau then hit a free throw eight seconds later to start a 9-2 run for UH, which pushed the lead to 79-69 after Brandon Thomas’ breakaway layup with 2:27 remaining. Adams State could not get closer than eight points the rest of the way.

“I think that’s what our team is built for,” said Gibson Johnson, who went 11 for 13 from the free throw line. “We felt they could come back, they hit a couple tough shots, but the strength of our team has been our composure. In overtimes last year and this year, close games, we’ve always been focused and able to get the job done.”

The Warriors led by just 34-32 late in the first half, but ended the period with a 6-0 run capped by Brandon Thomas’ putback while falling backward with three seconds remaining to give Hawai’i a 40-32 lead at the break.

The Grizzlies closed it to 44-43 on Mike Thomas’ fast break layup with 16:41 left in the game, but Avea responded with a slam dunk off Gibson Johnson’s no-look assist in the lane and the Warriors steadily built the lead to 70-56 over the next 10 minutes.

Avea, whose first shot attempt early in the game was an airball jumper from 17 feet, showed his springs, agility and clutch play by scoring in various ways — a tip-in putback to break a 27-27 tie, the slam dunk from a standing position to give UH a 46-43 lead, a left-handed layup to make it 51-46, a soaring glide to the basket after driving past a defender down the right side of the lane, then swishing 3-pointer from the top of the key just before the shot clock expired to put the Warriors ahead, 58-50, with 11:28 remaining.

“It was fun, it was a good feeling, I’m excited we got the win,” said Avea, who helped Kahuku win its first state championship last February. “I come into every game just trying to be ready for my number to be called, and tonight it just happened to be called and I was happy to bring some energy.”

Avea, a 6-foot-6 swingman, played a season-high 17 minutes at the “4” power forward position and went 6 for 8 from the field — with only one miss after the opening airball.

“Coach is really big on the ‘next play’ mentality, and I came in and really rushed that shot, so it was kind of easy for me to flush that really quickly,” Avea said. “I’m just glad we got the win. I’ve stayed ready this whole time trying to keep my confidence whether I’m in the game or not, so I’m just waiting for my number to be called and doing what I can to help the team.”

Ganot said Avea and Brandon Thomas “were huge in this game,” but was not totally surprised because of their preparation.

“I’m a believer in, ‘You play how you practice,’ ” Ganot said. “Those are two great attitudes and really coachable kids, and workers who want it. So to their credit, they kept working and started to practice better, and you’ll see consistently with our program — they’ll get in the game for those reasons. And the hope is that it translates on the floor, but they earned the (playing) time. It’s nice to see them rewarded for that, and our team was rewarded for it.”

Adams State forward Mike Thomas led all scorers with 29 points and eight rebounds, and was 13 of 16 from the field. Gannet said Thomas’ ability to score repeatedly inside the paint poses a big concern heading into Saturday’s game at Utah.

“Credit their Mike Thomas, he was a beast tonight, he made his presence felt,” Ganot said. “We did not do a good job all night of taking guys away from their dominant hands, dominant shoulders, too-deep catches … We’ve done a good job all year of giving support to our guys inside, and our point of emphasis was taking away the 3(-point shot), and we’ve done that, but again they were so dominant inside … We knew coming in this was a team with Division I size, they’re bigger than us inside, at least at the 5. So we got exposed there.

“You can bring support, (but) it’s hard to bring support when they catch it that deep, it’s too late. So we’re gonna have to look at that. We gotta defend that, clearly better.”

Hawai’i senior forward Mike Thomas contributed two points and three rebounds in 10 minutes. He was in the starting lineup, but his playing time was limited due to a wrist injury. Junior forward Jack Purchase went scoreless for the second consecutive game, but finished with team-highs of six assists and five rebounds.

CLICK HERE to view boxscore

(Game photos courtesy Matt Osumi and Chris Kadooka)

CLICK HERE to view photo gallery

5 Comments

  1. Avea!

    This kid is a star in the making. Best local boy to play for UH since Julian Sensley.

  2. Avea and B, Thomas were the stars. Good effort too by Ido who defended pretty well against Adam’s Thomas.

    I have a feeling Zigmars will be transferring by end of year, if not sooner.

    Anyone else hear the 1-2 Hawaii fans that heckle Ido every time he’s at the free throw line? It’s a little concerning.

  3. Give Adams St. credit, going 2-0 against D2 competition on the road, and against last year D2 powerhouse HPU. And giving Warriors all they could handle. If only they shoot better. That D1 player Mike Thomas for the Grizzilies, UH could use him, very long and could finish around the rim, and throw down.
    Ganot has to schedule a little better, maybe Eastern or Western Carolina or Univ. of S. Florida type of mid majors… more competive and better prepared for BigWest road play.
    Oh well, I still believe Ganot will get 20 wins and have his team , barring serious injury to frontline players, or chronic wrist injury MT.
    Go Bows.. A little too close for comfort against Adams St. however a good win, and playing time experience for Brandon T. and Avea!
    More local boys, such as Justice Sueing Jr. should stay and play for Bows.. ! and win, then the crowds will be better, as well as scheduling a little better teams.

  4. Brocke was on Hoopstalk. Was given a retro scholarship for last season, but not on scholarship now. Scheduled to get a degree in political science this coming spring. Plans to attend law school.
    ————————————————————————————————
    Justin Bibbins is the PG for Utah and 6-10 F Tyler Rawson was a JC teammate of Gibson. 6-10 F David Collette, a transfer from Utah St, is in his 2nd season with Utah now.

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