Sports

UHH/Azusa Pacific Hoops Twinbill Moved to the Civic

January 27, 2015, 2:52 PM HST
* Updated January 27, 3:00 PM
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Some of the biggest moments in University of Hawai’i at Hilo basketball history have taken place at the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium.

The same arena has already played host to several big moments this season, including an upset of #15 BYU-Hawai’i and an overtime win over Dixie State, a team that has reached the NCAA tournament in each of the last six seasons..

UH-Hilo coaches want to re-create the big game atmosphere again while creating some consistency for their players, which is why the university is moving its doubleheader against Azusa Pacific, set for Monday, Feb. 2, to the Civic. It was initially supposed to be played on the UH-Hilo campus.

“I’ve enjoyed the atmosphere. Our players have in the Civic this year, and I think our crowds are starting to get a little bit bigger,” said men’s basketball coach GE Coleman. “The biggest thing with us playing Chaminade Saturday and then looking ahead to Azusa is the consistency of playing back-to-back home games at the Civic. I thought that was extremely important when you look at our schedule.”

Prior to the season, the UH-Hilo athletic department, then led by interim Athletic Director Tim Moore, announced that Saturday home games were being moved to the Civic. Themed nights would be attached to those games, and outside events would be added to recapture the interest of the community.

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“We saw a lot of people that have never been up to the university, and the Civic offered more amenities that would help, like parking, for one,” said current interim Athletic Director Joey Estrella.

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Home games were regularly scheduled for the Civic up until the 2009-2010 season. At that time, then-AD Dexter Irvin moved all games to the UHH Gymnasium, citing a need to create a college atmosphere. Upgrades to the gym scoreboard, floor, and seating were eventually made to accommodate the change.

“It’s been nice to see some people that we haven’t seen in a few years,” said women’s basketball coach David Kaneshiro. “It’s been a positive thing, I think. The workers at the Civic have treated us great. They help us out a lot, and I know that for a lot of community members, it’s a positive thing.”

Of the remaining home games on the schedule, two more are slated to be played at the UHH Gymnasium. One of those dates, either the Feb. 24 doubleheader against Academy of Art or the Feb. 26 twinbill against Holy Names University, will also be moved to the Civic, according to an athletics spokesperson. It is not known which game will be moved.

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“For me, I really believe that our programs have developed to the point where our men’s and women’s basketball teams need to play in an arena, and the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium is our arena,” Estrella said.

The final home doubleheader of the season, scheduled for Feb. 28 against Dominican, will be played at the Civic.

“Hopefully we can get a really good crowd on Saturday and see if we can carry that over to Monday as well,” Coleman said.

Saturday night is UH-Hilo and Hawai’i Community College faculty, staff, and student appreciation night, offering free admission for those who fall under that category. Estrella said that Monday will be Senior Citizens Day, meaning those aged 60 years and older will receive free admission to the doubleheader.

Students will have a way to get down to the Civic. Estrella said that the Student Life Center is offering free bus service to those interested in attending the games. Students are asked to sign up prior to each game.

The women’s contests will start at 5 p.m. each night, with the men’s games to follow at 7:30 p.m. The games will be aired on ESPN Radio’s AM 850 Hilo, AM 790 Kona, and ESPNHawaii.com.

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