Na Koa opt to cancel last home games

WAILUKU – For the second time in three years, Na Koa Ikaika Maui will not finish their regular season as scheduled.

The year’s last four home games for Na Koa – set for Wednesday through Saturday at Maehara Stadium against the Hawaii Stars – have been canceled.

“We really didn’t want to do that, but we finally came to the conclusion that the fans had seen both these teams play each other a bunch of times this year,” Na Koa general manager David Andrus said Monday. “And that it was the best for the team to let them rest and be at the top of their game to get into the playoffs.”

Hawaii has already played 12 games on Maui this season. The playoffs begin next week in Northern California with Na Koa locked into second place and the Stars virtually assured of finishing fourth.

Both teams played games in Japan from July 30 to Aug. 4, and they finished a five-game set against each other in Hilo on Sunday.

“It wasn’t an easy decision and we could very well have had them play this out,” Andrus said. “But then we would have thrown them on a plane again and make them, already weary, go into San Francisco, have them not be where they want to be.”

Maui did not play its final 27 scheduled games in 2011 – 23 of which were to be on the road – due in large part to a team from Illinois ceasing its season due to financial difficulties. Andrus acknowledged that he is concerned about Na Koa’s image with fans and sponsors after this week’s decision.

“We considered that as well, the perception might be that we were pulling out or didn’t have it any-more – we really did,” Andrus said.

Andrus said Hawaii manager Garry Templeton II and Maui manager Jeff Brooks “both agreed that they were banged up a little bit and tired, needed some time and would rather have a couple days just to bury their head in the sand and relax before they went into the playoffs.”

“It’s a tough decision and a lot of it has to do with the fact that we are in Hawaii and the other teams aren’t. We have to do the traveling, a lot of traveling that (the other teams) don’t have to do. You just have to factor that into this decision.”

Over the weekend, Bob Young, owner of both Na Koa and the Stars, and Andrus discussed the issue with Pacific Association commissioner Mike Marshall.

“It was sort of a confluence of things that happened,” Andrus said. “One of the reasons for doing it was because the team had done the six-game junket in Japan and had to fly there, then had to take a seven-hour bus ride just to get started. And then they had to go to town after town after town every day.

“They had a heck of a time, a lot of guys said it was the time of their lives, however, at the end of it they were exhausted. They were dead tired.”

The playoffs are scheduled for Aug. 19-23, and will include the East Bay Lumberjacks, who joined the league in the middle of the season. Andrus said the league will have prospective owners in attendance and wants to use the tournament as a showcase.

Andrus said that fans holding tickets for the canceled games can get refunds by calling the team at 891-2221 or visiting the team office at 240 Alamaha St., Unit N-18, in Kahului.

* Robert Collias is at