Sports

Eight Bid Aloha in Season-Ending Victory for Vulcan Women

March 1, 2015, 8:59 AM HST
* Updated March 1, 9:04 AM
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The glaring realization after Saturday night’s victory by the University of Hawai’i at Hilo women’s basketball team was that head coach David Kaneshiro would have to replace eight seniors, accounting for almost all of the team’s production this season.

Before that fact hit home, however, UH-Hilo had one final test to complete. The Vulcans survived a near comeback by Dominican University and defeated the Penguins 80-71 at the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium.

Kaneshiro regularly goes with a nine-player rotation in every game. With the exception of sophomore guard Alexa Jacobs, every other member of that group finished up their eligibility on Saturday night.

“Tonight, they all played great,” Kaneshiro said. “This has been a special group for a lot of different reasons. Some of the wins that we’ve had over the last couple of years with this core group, they are as good as we’ve ever had.”

And why not save the best for last? The Vulcans found an offensive rhythm that has been inconsistent all season, leading to an advantage that grew as big as 11 points in the opening half.

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“They were pressuring us so much on the perimeter that we really couldn’t run any of the sets that we’d like to against the zone. It really came down to penetrating it, whether it was with the pass or the dribble, and then everybody’s got to space off of that,” Kaneshiro said.

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In that first half, UH-Hilo drained six three-pointers, two each from seniors CC Rode and Kirstie Williams, and shot 14-26 (.538) from the floor. That negated a 12-0 run that Dominican put together within the first four minutes of the half which gave the Penguins an early 12-4 lead.

UH-Hilo (10-14 overall, 9-11 PacWest) grew the lead up to 13 points before the Penguins chopped away the home team’s advantage. Dominican’s leading scorer, Allyssa Weatherd, battled foul trouble throughout the game but knocked down three consecutive shots in the paint to get the Penguins within two at 64-62 with 4:21 left to play.

The turning point came when Weatherd fouled out on an offensive foul call with 2:43 to play and the Vulcans’ lead pushed back up to five points. Dominican head coach Tim LaKose came on to the court and argued the call with official Tiki Kahoano, drawing a technical foul. He continued to voice his displeasure and said a few more choice words, drawing another technical foul which tossed him from the game.

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Williams hit three technical foul free throws to push the lead back up to eight, helping to seal the deal. She finished with a team-high 18 points while also grabbing six rebounds. Rode followed with 17 points, five rebounds, and four treys. Three other seniors, Hayley Reynolds, Danielle Kooyman, and Chelsea Santos, each contributed 10 points.

“They showed a lot of character and a lot of heart, and focus too.  It’s not easy when another team’s making a run, and give Dominican a lot of credit because they kept fighting and kept playing. They made big shots and big plays,” Kaneshiro said.

Also among the eight seniors is leading scorer and rebounder McKenzie Mangino, who finished Saturday’s game with nine points, eight rebounds, five assists, and two blocks.

Jordan Kealoha, a two-year player who transferred over from Sacramento State, finished her Vulcan career with a six-point, eight-assist performance against the Penguins. Kealoha was the team’s leader in assists for the season.

Rounding out the senior class was Whitney Edens, who found herself in the starting lineup after an injury several weeks ago to Rode. She fouled out of the game and didn’t score in 15 minutes.

Dominican (13-13, 10-10) was led by Weathered’s 19 points and 11 rebounds. Post player Sarah Nelson struggled from the floor, shooting 6-for-21, but finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Jessy Marshall and Carly Holboke each added 11 points.

Dominican outrebounded UH-Hilo 47-41, especially on the offensive glass, where the Penguins earned a 19-7 advantage. The Penguins, however, shot just 31 percent from the floor in the losing effort.

Now comes the hard part: replacing the eight seniors that exhausted their eligibility with the program.

“It’s definitely well underway,” said Kaneshiro of his recruiting efforts. “It kinda just never ends.”

Dominican 31 40 – 71

Hawai’i-Hilo 40 40 – 80

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