Five seniors put their foot down and contributed to a complete 2nd half turnaround, and a freshman placed the bow on the gift basket as the Rainbow Wahine defeated favored Utah St. 71-70 in overtime.
Hawaii (11-18, 5-11 WAC) will play in the WAC Tournament starting Mar. 9 as the #7 seed and will most likely play New Mexico St. which would be the 6th seed.
By the 4:17 mark the Aggie (15-13, 9-6 WAC) lead was 21 and Hawaii was turning the ball over as if they were tax deductible donations, due to the Aggie half court zone trap. The team had clinched a birth in the WAC Tournament before tipoff (via a loss by San Jose St earlier in the evening), but it looked like senior night was going to be anti-climactic.
The lead never got bigger than 21.
Hawaii trailed at the half 41-28. They would outscore their opponent 40-27 in the 2nd half, shoot 6 of 7 from the 3-point line, force Utah St. to commit turnovers and score 20 points off of them, and block the shot of 6-6 Banna Diop from the free throw line as time expired to force overtime.
The senior contributions:
Megan Tinnin – has had an inconsistent season offensively all year, despite becoming the UH leader in 3-point field goals. Tinnin would go 5-8 from behind the arc sparking the 2nd half comeback and make 5 steals enroute to scoring 18 points, in a game she dedicated to her late mother. She played 41 of the 45 minutes of the game.
Keisha Kanekoa – when the o 4-year starter scores in double digits, Hawaii plays well. Her scoring was about the only offense in the 1st half otherwise the hole would have been even deeper. Playmaker and scorer, she would end up with 16 points and have the ball in her hands in the final 10 seconds of overtime as Hawaii trailed by 1 and went for the win.
May Ayabe – her dream was to play college basketball in America. She was living her dream after walking on last season. Her backup role gave Kanekoa fresher legs at the end of the game and her penetration and passing into the high post was the key toward adjusting to the Aggie half court trap.
Allie Patterson – the transfer from St. Johns lost her starting job and battled injuries. On this night the 6-1 forward provided a high post presence on offense against the zone trap and some defensive help against the 6-6 Diop. The Hawaii offense now had ball movement.
Julita Bungaite – at 6-2 she added height for the smaller Rainbow Wahine. Nicknamed “Jules”, she took one shot in the game – a 3 pointer during appoint in the 2nd half when Utah St. seemed to have an answer to the Hawaii comeback. There was no answer after that shot.
And the freshman “bow”:
Kamilah Jackson – against WAC leader Louisiana Tech on Jan. 8, Jackson had the chance with 2 free throws to win it for the Wahine. She made 1 of 2 and forced overtime, in which Hawaii could not pull it out. On senior night Keisha Kanekoa took the last shot that bounced off the rim with under 2 seconds left. Jackson is one of the nation’s leaders in rebounding and got an offensive put back with a foul as the buzzer sounded, sending her to the line with .3 seconds. Both free throws went straight in and never touched the rim – game over.