By Brian McInnis
After two games on opposite ends of the drama scale — a blowout and a nail-biter — on Thursday night in Manoa, the finals of the College Summer League are set. Top-seeded Flipbooks Hawaii meets No. 2 Solar Universe in a winner-take-all championship showdown at 7 p.m. on Saturday at the Manoa Valley District Park gym.
It was a worthy atmosphere for playoff games; the gym's seating area was at capacity and surplus fans rimmed the court. You can visit the league's site for footage and photos.
Solar Universe made the first semifinal an anticlimactic affair, drubbing No. 6 Central Medical Clinic 119-83 behind a team-high 25 points from UH junior guard Brandon Spearman.
It helped Solar's cause that Spearman had a big game with both Derrick Low and Bobby Nash out of town — he delivered with a few flashy dunks and 3s. Rashaun Broadus added 24 points, Nahshon George 22 and Nick Demusis 20 in the rout. The game was over early in the second half.
"The hardest thing about playing tonight was that we didn't have two of the top eight scorers in the league in Derrick Low and Bobby Nash," Solar coach Artie Wilson said. "Everybody came in thinking because we didn't have them, we wouldn't be able to compete. I knew we could compete."
"We tried to come out here and give it our all," Spearman said. "Coach Artie told us to just go out there and play hard, and that's what we did."
Meanwhile, "Haunslaught" Hauns Brereton was held in check, thanks mostly to a litany of double-teams thrown at him. There wouldn't be another 40-plus outburst this time; Solar guard Kawika Smith of HPU had the primary duties on Brereton and did a good job of getting under his skin, holding CMC's primary option to 26 points.
UH point guard Jace Tavita added 18 in the loss.
"I told Hauns and Jace that 40 points, 30 points, that's not going to happen," Spearman said. "Me and my team got too much pride."
The night's second semifinal between Flipbooks Hawaii and Isaac Fotu-led National Fire Protection was a tight battle the entire way. It even featured (gasp) defense! Who knew?
Upset-minded NFP, the fourth seed, had a narrow lead for about 37 minutes. Flipbooks, however, used its multiple scoring threats to seize control in the final minute and take it 84-77.
National Fire's front line of Fotu and UH alum Bill Amis (summoned out of retirement for the playoffs) gave Flipbooks trouble for about 30 minutes. But a frustrated Amis got tossed with 10 minutes left when he ran into and knocked down Flipbooks center Scott Kato, earning a flagrant 2 foul. Flipbooks asserted itself from there.
John Avila of HPU had had the go-ahead 3-pointer to make it 78-77 with 1:40 to play. Kaunaoa McGee (24 points) and UH junior Christian Standhardinger (18 points) put it away with free throws.
"We're a second-half team," said Flipbooks co-coach Tim Thorpe, who also coaches the Hawaii Select exhibition team. "Our defense has been the key to every game we've won. When our defense is on, our offense really picks up. Tonight, they played great D on the other team."
Chaminade alum Leon Ballard led Flipbooks with a game-high 27 points, scoring in multiple ways with his usual quiet demeanor.
"We stick together as a team, that made it possible," Standhardinger said. "We got the win and I'm very happy about that."
Fotu had a team-high 20 points in the loss, completing an impressive run of summer league performances.