Ho'okele Staff | Apr 07, 2017
Story and photo by Randy Dela Cruz
Sports Editor, Ho‘okele
It was a tough night for Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam duo Lt. Mark Veazey and Department of Defense civilian Sean Caddell, but thanks to the efforts of top scorer Leon Ballard and owner/ player Geremy Robinson, the Hawaii Swish topped off their inaugural limited four-game schedule in the American Basketball Association by defeating the visiting Las Vegas Jokers, 105-96, on March 30 at the Neal Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu.
The team’s final game of the season was designated Military Appreciation Night by the Swish to honor the men and women in the armed forces.
“It’s the efforts of the military and freedoms that they give us,” Robinson said about why he felt it was necessary to recognize Hawaii’s armed forces.
“All the positive things we have are because of the protection we get from the service.”
The Swish finished off their short season with a perfect 4-0 record and will now begin to prepare for a full season of play in the ABA starting in October.
“We’ve done everything we could do,” said Robinson about keeping the professional basketball team in Hawaii. “We’ll start off with camp in October, we’ve got some games locked in already and are looking forward to playing in the Stan Sheriff Center with some preseason games, so we’ve already started.”
Both Veazey and Caddell have made strong cases for their return to the team in the coming season, as the duo gave the Swish a strong inside presence inside the paint.
Against the Jokers, though, Veazey picked up a quick two fouls in the first quarter and had to play a bit cautious for the remainder of the game.
Meanwhile, Caddell had a difficult time on offense, but contributed with his typical solid defense.
While neither of the JBPHH players scored in double figures, the Swish got some big-time contributions from Ballard, a former player from Chaminade University, and Robinson, who caught fire with only five minutes remaining in the second quarter.
Ballard, who has been the leading Swish scorer, made up for the team’s lack of firepower by tossing down 20 points by halftime and 30 for the entire game.
Robinson was held scoreless until the 5:52 mark in the second quarter, but then found his stroke to record 17 points before halftime.
The former University of Hawaii guard zeroed in on his second trey of the quarter to put the Swish up, 45-43, with only 1:40 on the clock.
As halftime approached, Robinson converted a basket-and-one that sent the Swish into the break with a 51-47 lead.
“I play the game the way it should be played,” Robinson said. “I read the game the whole time and pick my spots.”
The matchup, which was tied four times, remained tight in the second half, with the Swish seeing a 10-point lead evaporate in the final period.
With 6:24 left in the game, Veazey, who dropped seven points, sank his third of four free throws to give the Swish an 86-80 lead.
A minute later, Caddell got on the scoreboard with two free throws that made it 90-82 in favor of the Swish.
As the game clock wound down, the Swish clung to a 95-94 lead, but again, Robinson came up with a clutch three-point shot that increased the lead to four.
Finally, Robinson capped off the night with a thunderous slam-dunk that put the game away with only 22 seconds remaining.
“It’s us as a team,” Robinson said about getting the win. “We know each other and we play well together. I’ve got to commend Artie (Wilson, Swish head coach) for putting it together.”
As Robinson reflected on the Swish’s first season, he said that it was a dream come true and will work even harder to keep the team going in Hawaii.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “You look around and see everything. It’s a hell of a feeling.”