UHH Women Fall to PLNU But Clinch Tourney Berth
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by Josh Pacheco
It was a bittersweet day for the University of Hawai`i at Hilo women’s basketball team.
In the early afternoon, the Vulcans fell 51-45 to Point Loma Nazarene in a PacWest Conference matchup. Hours later, the Vulcans got a gift from Grand Canyon University: a win over Dominican University to send UHH to the postseason.
With GCU’s 51-38 win at Dominican, the Vulcans were assured a spot in the inaugural PacWest Conference Tournament, slated for March 7-9 at the campus of Azuza Pacific.
Back to the loss, where the Vulcans were as cold as the afternoon air outside of the gym. UHH shot 4-for-26 in the first half, averaging 15.4 percent, and failed to hit a field goal for a stretch of seven minutes and 42 seconds between the two halves. Jameia McDuffie ended the streak with a runner in the paint to cut the deficit down to 28-16 with 18:41 to play in the game.
UH Hilo (11-9, 8-6 PWC) kept chipping away at the Sea Lions’ lead throughout the second half. PLNU’s 12 point lead at halftime grew to 14 before slowly being whittled down to three with 2:27 remaining when Kirsten Shimizu hit a three pointer to cut the score to 46-43.
Callie Rhoads answered right back on the team’s next possession, sinking a three point basket at the left wing to bring the lead back out to six points with 2:01 left to play. She finished with 16 points and eight rebounds to help guide the Sea Lions to their sixth straight win.
The Vulcans had a hard time containing Jessica Escorza, a 5-foot-11 guard/forward combo who used her size or ball handling ability to her advantage, depending on that possession’s defensive assignment. Escorza led Point Loma Nazarene with a game high 19 points and eight rebounds.
For the game, UH Hilo shot 30.9 percent (17-for-55) from the field, 6-for-22 from beyond the arc, and 5-for-11 from the charity stripe. Kirsty Imai led the Vulcans with 15 points, two steals, and three treys.
UH Hilo hosts Hawai`i Pacific University in a rematch of a game won by HPU, 88-54 on February 2 in Honolulu. The Sea Warriors are 10-4 in the PacWest Conference and hold a two game advantage on the Vulcans in the standings. If the season ended today, HPU would be the tournament’s second seed, earning a first round bye, while Hawai`i Hilo would be the fifth seed in the tournament.
Tip for the conference rivalry is slated for 2:00 p.m. and can be heard on ESPN Radio and ESPNHawaii.com.
Point Loma Nazarene 28 23 – 51
Hawai`i Hilo 14 31 – 45