Wahine survive and advance in BWC play
Mar. 9—Playing to exhaustion—and then playing some more—the Hawaii women's basketball team outlasted Cal State Fullerton 82-75 in double overtime in Wednesday night's quarterfinal round of the Big West Tournament.
HENDERSON, NEV.—Playing to exhaustion—and then playing some more—the Hawaii women's basketball team outlasted Cal State Fullerton 82-75 in double overtime in Wednesday night's quarterfinal round of the Big West Tournament.
A mostly green-clad crowd of 959 in the Dollar Loan Center saw the Rainbow Wahine hit a clutch 3 with 19.3 seconds left in the first overtime and score the final six points—all on free throws—in the second extra period.
"It's unfortunate somebody had to lose, " said UH coach Laura Beeman, whose third-seeded Wahine will face No. 2 Long Beach State in Friday's semifinals. "My heart breaks for (the Titans ). ... This is what (UH ) has done all year. We've had massive adversity. We have four kids back in Hawaii right now with knee braces or casts on, and three of them are starters."
But the Wahine made the big plays at the end. With 1 :10 left in the second overtime, Ashley Thoms drove the right side and lofted what was either an airball or pass. Kallin Spiller grabbed the ball and hit a layup to extend the Wahine's lead to 76-73.
CSUF guard Una Jovanvic hit a jumper for what turned out to be the end of the Titans' scoring for the night.
With 8.7 seconds left, Lily Wahinekapu hit the front-end free throw to make it 78-75 but missed the second. CSUF's Ashlee Lewis grabbed the rebound, then called a timeout that the Titans did not have. The Wahine were awarded two technical free throws, both made by Wahinekapu for an 80-75 lead, and possession. Daejah Phillips was fouled with 6.8 seconds left, and her two free throws ended the suspense.
"Am I surprised we won this game tonight ?" Beeman said. "Absolutely not. That's what this group has done all year. They have found a way to play great basketball—and really bad basketball—and still win. We had a little bit of both of those tonight. This is an amazing, amazing group of of young women that I feel incredibly honored to coach and be part of this crazy season."
The Wahine had won the two regular-season meetings between the short-handed teams. But the Titans, who used only eight players, created opportunities off ball screens and passes to the post or open perimeter shooter.
"I really had to adjust, " said Wahinekapu, who often was assigned to defend the drive off the screen. "The whole team had to adjust. ... They're really good at coming off screens, pullups, hitting their post players.. I really had to get into their hip, and make their shot more difficult for them."
The Wahine had a chance to win it near the end of regulation but Meilani McBee's 3-point attempt would not fall.
In the overtime with the Wahine down 67-64, McBee received a pass in the right corner, then buried the 3 to tie it at 67 with 19.3 seconds left, leading to another five minutes.
"We practice that (play ) a lot in in practice, and I think that moment we ran it completely, " McBee said. "The timing, everything, was perfect. I'm glad the shot went in."
When a well-rehearsed play works, Beeman said, "I get a lump in my throat every time. ... Big shots aren't big shots when you practice them every day. They're big shots on paper. ... But that's not a big shot for Meilani because she practices it all the time. I wasn't shocked she made it. I was incredibly happy."
Wahinekapu led the Wahine with 20 points, eight rebounds and three steals. Imani Perez hit five field goals on pick-and-pop plays. Phillips' 13 points—she was 8-for-8 on free throws—helped UH build a 24-4 advantage in bench points.
Lewis finished with 22 points for the Titans.