Unsafe Playing Conditions Scraps UHH Hoops Twinbill
Fans who have watched University of Hawai`i at Hilo basketball this season have noticed that when rain and wind combine outside, the floor becomes an unsafe environment inside.
For the first time, the safety of the student athletes on the court was compromised, and when four different players injured themselves in non-contact situations, officials determined that the floor at the UHH Gymnasium was unsafe to play on.
The women’s game was halted with 11:24 left in the first half. UHH was leading by the score of 12-11 over Azusa Pacific University when Amanda Sims slid on the far corner and injured her right leg. The APU senior was helped off the court and was later spotted with crutches
That was not the first incident to happen to the Cougars. Within the first three minutes of the game, freshman Kelly Hardeman slipped near the free throw line on the right side of the floor. Moments later, the team’s leading scorer, Hannah Kenny, slipped on the floor and limped her way through the team’s next few possessions.
The first sign that the game was in danger of ending early came with just over 12 minutes left in the first half, when APU sophomore Maddy Barrett slipped and did the splits near the baseline on the right side of the floor. Immediately, head coach T.J. Hardeman turned to his school’s athletic director, Gary Pine, and asked him to do something about the problem.
The game was halted for about 15 minutes while Pine, Hardeman, UH Hilo athletic director Dexter Irvin, and UHH women’s basketball coach David Kaneshiro talked with officials and floor crews about the problem. Workers constantly used mops and towels with an alcohol-based solvent to try to dry up the moisture on the floor, but the rain and wind persisted outside.
Irvin announced after the stoppage that they would try to give the game another chance, but with all doors closed, mainly the main entrance which was near the latest fall. Not even five minutes later, on the opposite side of the floor, the most serious of the injuries took place.
“It was a kick in the gut when I saw Amanda Sims go down,” Pine said on the radio broadcast after the cancellation. “I probably, in hindsight, should’ve said ‘no, we’re not going to go on the floor,’ but I wanted to see if we could do something to the floor to make it safe and give it one more shot. As it turned out, one more shot was one shot too many.”
With both schools qualifying for tournament play, UHH in the PacWest tournament and APU in the National Christian College Athletic Association regional tournament, it could be argued that the game was meaningless outside of potential seeding changes. It is not possible, however, to make up the game because Azusa Pacific had flights scheduled to depart for California on Sunday. They have been in Hawai`i for a four-game conference road trip for a week.
Pine said that both athletic directors would check on the weather forecast at 6:30 p.m., an hour before the second game was slated to tip off, to determine whether the nightcap would be played. The hope was that the weather would clear up and hold off for at least an hour to play, but a quick meeting between Pine, Irvin, and referee Todd Apo put aside any hope of getting the men on the court.
Irvin said that he hopes an upcoming Capital Improvement Project on the gymnasium will “fix some of this stuff,” but attributed the problem to Hilo’s climate and the way gyms are built. “When you have gyms in Hilo, until you air condition them, you’re always going to have this problem,” said the UHH athletic director.
Moving the men’s game to Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium was briefly discussed, but Irvin said that after a discussion with referee Mason Souza, who also works for the County of Hawai`i’s Ho`olulu Complex, which includes the Civic, he was told that the conditions there were not any better.
The cancellation of the men’s game made it tougher for both teams to reach their respective postseason destinations. For Azusa Pacific to qualify for the NCAAA regional tournament, they must finish with a .500 record. They will not be able to do that with only two games remaining.
On the other side, UH Hilo’s chances to reach the PacWest Conference Tournament has gotten even tougher. Despite getting help from Grand Canyon in getting a loss from Hawai`i Pacific University, the Vulcans sit a game-and-a-half back of HPU and Academy of Art with two games to play. Art U owns a tie-breaker over UH Hilo with a win in California last month, while UHH owns the tiebreaker over the Sea Warriors thanks to Monday’s dominant victory.
UH Hilo returns to the court on Tuesday when they host Chaminade on senior night. The women’s game begins at 5:00 p.m. with the men to follow at 7:30 p.m. The games can be heard on ESPN Radio and ESPNHawaii.com.