Sports

Vulcans Drop Nailbiter to Alaska

November 19, 2013, 7:35 AM HST
* Updated November 19, 7:38 AM
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Freshman Alexa Jacobs’ missed three-pointer from the left wing as time expired sealed an opening night loss for the University of Hawai`i at Hilo women’s basketball team, a 62-61 defeat to the University of Alaska.

David Kaneshiro, entering his fourth year as head coach of the Vulcans, believes that the game didn’t come down to that last possession.

“It certainly didn’t come down to the last shot,” Kaneshiro said after the game. “I give Fairbanks a lot of credit. They did a lot of good things. We also have a long way to go on both ends. We made a lot of mistakes that we had not been making.”

UH-Hilo (0-1) controlled much of the first half, thanks to a 14 point, nine rebound effort from Kamie Imai, who played 14 minutes in the opening frame. Imai hit six of her nine field goal attempts and was aggressive off of missed shots and turnovers in creating quick transition scoring opportunities.

Imai finished the game with 22 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Vulcans in both categories.

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Alaska (4-0) hung in thanks to its interior dominance. Despite first half foul trouble from post players Delisa Chapman, Jordan Wilson, and Ruth O’Neal, the Nanooks won the battle of the boards, 25-20, while grabbing 14 offensive rebounds.

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UH-Hilo took a 33-31 lead into the locker room and extended it further coming out of it. Jordan Kealoha, a transfer from Sacramento State, drained the team’s first three-pointer of the season to open up a 36-31 advantage. Danielle Kooyman, another transfer from South Mountain Community College, followed about 90 seconds later with a jumper to give the Vulcans a seven point advantage, tied for the largest in the game.

Alaska’s Kaillee Skjold stepped up her game in the second half. The freshman reserve drained a three, the first of the two she made in the second half, to cut the Vulcans’ lead to 40-39 with 15:12 remaining. Later, she hit a field goal in the middle of a 5-0 Nanooks’ scoring run to give her team a 46-44 lead with 10:56 remaining.

Skjold played 28 minutes off the bench, scoring 14 points and securing five rebounds.

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Both teams would continue to trade the lead several times late in the game. UH-Hilo opened a five point lead with less than five minutes to play with another trey from Kealoha to put the Vulcans ahead 58-53. After Skjold followed her own missed shot with a rebound and a layup, Imai pushed the lead back to five with her own field goal.

Alaska closed the final 3:41 of the game by going on a 7-1 run, started by Skjold’s second three-point make of the night to close the deficit to two points at 60-58. Freshman Jordan Wilson tied the game with a pair of free throws, and Victoria Milton followed up with a made basket to put the Nanooks ahead by two with 2:17 remaining.

Jacobs had a chance to tie the game at the free throw line with 1:08 left, but missed the first of two free throw shots. The gritty point guard hit the second shot, and had an opportunity to win the game thanks to a pair of missed free throws and a missed shot by Alaska down the stretch.

The freshman finished with 13 points and shot 4-for-9 from the field, showing her head coach all of the intangibles that make her fun player to watch and teach.

“She’s done a good job for a new player and especially for a freshman to come in,” said Kaneshiro. “She’s got a toughness to her. Not just in the games, but in practice, we can coach her just about as hard as anybody and she’ll respond and handles things the right way, so there’s a mental toughness to her, as well as a physical grittiness that makes me feel good that we’ve got her for four years.”

Wilson, who earned the Great Northwest Athletic Conference’s Player of the Week award last week, led Alaska with 16 points and shot 8-for-9 from the free throw line. The Nanooks won despite shooting under 53 percent (19-36) from the free throw line. The Nanooks out-rebounded UH-Hilo 47-40.

UH-Hilo shot 23-for-55 from the field but just 2-for-13 from beyond the arc.

Both teams return to the floor for a rematch at 4:00 p.m. Tuesday at the UH-Hilo Gymnasium. The game can be heard on ESPN Radio, AM 850 in Hilo and AM 790 in Kona, and ESPNHawaii.com.

Alaska 31 31 – 62

UH-Hilo 33 28 – 61

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