Ho'okele Staff | Mar 17, 2017
Story and photo by Randy Dela Cruz
Sports Editor, Ho‘okele
Lt. Mark Veazey, who is the Navy’s contribution to the professional American Basketball Association’s Hawaii Swish, came off a 10-point game back on Feb. 28 to nearly double his production. The Swish defeated the visiting Orange County Novastars, 112-107, on March 11 at the Neil Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu.
The win was the team’s third of the season against no defeats and places the Swish in a position to finish out their abbreviated season undefeated with a victory over the visiting Las Vegas Jokers on March 22.
Veazey, who is the team’s starting center, came out strong and scored the first basket of the game en route to 19 points. Eight of them came in the first quarter.
Just one season ago, Veazey, who stands 6-feet, 10-inches tall, was playing at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, as a member of Pacific Command/Joint Intelligence Operation Center (PACOM/ JIOC).
With top scorer Leon Ballard struggling in the first half, Veazey’s contribution was huge for the Swish. The team clung to only a two-point lead, 26-24, after one quarter and was tied at the half at 52-52.
“I was just trying to be aggressive,” said Veazey, whose eight first quarter points led all scorers. “The last game, I wasn’t really aggressive. In the first game, I came out aggressive and I wanted to do it again. They had some bigs, but I feel comfortable I can play with anybody.”
During the entire game, no one could pull away. Both teams traded baskets and leads throughout the matchup.
A basket and assist by owner/ player Geremy Robinson late in the second quarter put the Swish ahead by five points at 47-42.
However, back came the Novastars, who tied the game up at 52-52 going into halftime on a basket-and-one by Jaushay Rockett just before the horn.
The second half was just as hotly contested, but with Ballard coming alive, the Swish broke out to an eight-point advantage at 69-61.
During the stretch, Ballard joined Veazey with seven points apiece to lead the way.
Still, the lead wasn’t big enough, as the Novastars rallied to tie the score at the end of the third quarter at 81-81.
The game continued to seesaw back and forth, as the Novastars scored the first six points of the final quarter, but the Swish responded with a 7-0 run to jump back out in front.
Tied again at 88-88, the Swish finally began to slowly pull away to finish off the Novastars.
A three-ball by former University of Hawaii player Pii Minns pushed the Swish on top at 92-90.
The Swish followed up with a putback by Ballard and a fast-break basket by Robinson, who got the assist from Veazey.
Then with only 1:17 remaining on the clock, the Swish was finally able to take a breath, when Ballard scored another hoop on a dish from Robinson that gave the team a five-point lead at 107-102.
Veazey said that the hard-fought battle was a very good test for the Swish, who ran off with easy wins in their first two ABA games.
“Every game is not going to go exactly your way,” said Veazey, who was forced to sit most of the fourth quarter with five fouls. “There were times when we really could have fallen apart, but we really stayed together. That’s how we won. We stayed as a team.”