Vulcan Women Need Overtime to Defeat Gritty Silverswords
It took five extra minutes and a trip back down from the emotions of senior night, but the University of Hawai`i at Hilo women’s basketball team picked up a much needed 72-61 win over Chaminade to stop the Vulcans’ three game losing streak.
Jazlyn Afusia, Jameia McDuffie, Shannon Rousseau, Kirsten Shimizu, Elise Spain, Jazmine Corpuz, Kirsty Imai, and Natalie Mata played their final home game in front of 463 fans, the biggest crowd of the season, at the UHH Gymnasium.
Chaminade, entering the game with a 1-20 record, didn’t play like a team that had lost 15 straight games before playing in Hilo. The Silverswords controlled most of the first half, thanks to inside shots from post players Rhani Kaneaiakala and Nikki Tauau, and rode the effort of their post players into a six point lead, 17-11, with 11:40 left in the first half.
Kaneaiakala, a transfer from Hawai`i Pacific University, led all scorers with 11 first half points to go along with six rebounds. Tauau added nine points off of the bench, and Chaminade took a lead up as far as nine points before settling for a 32-25 halftime lead. Both finished the game with 15 points.
“I thought Chaminade played great,” UHH coach David Kaneshiro said after the game. “We kinda let the ball go to certain spots on the floor where we shouldn’t have let it, and it resulted in some easy shots, some fouls on our part, and to their credit, they took advantage of it every time.”
UH Hilo (12-10, 9-7 PacWest) watched the lead go back up to nine early in the second half before finding a groove from the perimeter. Senior point guard Shimizu, a two-year transfer from Sacramento, CA, drained a three to get UH Hilo within six points with 17:42 left in the game. Two possessions later, after a Kamie Imai jumper, older sister Kirsty Imai knocked down one of her four three point shots to get the Vulcans within one point of the ‘Swords, 36-35, with 16:37 left on the clock.
Kaneaiakala nailed a pair of free throws to push the lead back out to three, but Kirsty Imai, a Waiakea High graduate, dropped another trey to tie the game with 16:03 remaining.
For the game’s next five minutes, it was a back and forth battle featuring aggressive defense and traded baskets. UH Hilo took control when Mata, a senior sharpshooter from Farrington High School, scored six of her team’s ten points in a three minute stretch. She led UH Hilo to an eight point advantage, 52-44, with 8:07 sitting on the clock.
Mata led all scorers with 20 points on 9-of-15 shooting.
“I’m real happy for Nat,” praised Kaneshiro. “For three years, she’s grown up a lot and been through a lot, both good and bad. She’s playing some of the best basketball she ever has at the time we need it the most. For her to do that, that’s really special.”
Chaminade (1-21, 1-16 PWC) was undeterred by the Vulcans’ run, immediately closing back within one on a 7-0 spurt to minimize UHH’s lead to 52-51 with 5:44 remaining. Tauau scored a pair of field goals during that stretch, while Sabrina Angle added the team’s only three point make of the night.
The Silverswords found a way to even the game three times in the final three-and-a-half minutes. Tauau hit another inside basket to tie the game at 57, while guard Shana Kawakami’s difficult layup tied it again at 59 with 2:30 left.
Kamie Imai’s mid-range basket pushed UHH back on top with :42 remaining, but Shimizu’s foul on Glacen Florita gave Chaminade two free throws with :27 left in regulation. After the under-four minute media timeout, Florita sank both free throws to tie the game again, forcing overtime.
The extra five minutes played right into UHH’s hands. Chaminade dressed eight players for the game and was immediately down to seven when Shamyra Daigle fouled out early in overtime. The Vulcans found enough in the tank to turn up the pressure another notch on Chaminade, forcing four turnovers and shutting down the Silverswords to zero points on 0-for-4 shooting to survive in overtime.
“It’s good to get a win on senior night,” said Kaneshiro. “I’m not sure exactly the reason for the slow start. It’s just tough. For our group, I’m just glad they were able to regroup and get a win.”
Kirsty and Kamie Imai each added 15 points for the Vulcans. Shimizu scored 11 points and dropped three treys.
The Vulcans’ visit Brigham Young University-Hawai`i on Saturday to close the regular season. Following that game, they travel to the PacWest Tournament as the fifth seed. They will play either Academy of Art or Dixie State Thursday at 1:00 p.m. Hawai`i time from the campus of Azusa Pacific University.
Chaminade 32 29 0 – 61
Hawai`i Hilo 25 36 11 – 72