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Sharks Look to Ground Golden Eagles as PacWest Tournament Action Begins


HONOLULU — Third time is the charm?

The Hawai’i Pacific University women’s basketball team (14-13, 12-8 PacWest) will head over to McCabe Gym on the campus of Chaminade on Thursday, March 2 to take on the Concordia University Golden Eagles in the quarterfinals of the Pacific West conference tournament. Tip-off is expected to be at 12:30 P.M. HST. 

The Sharks have seen the Golden Eagles twice already this season, dropping both games to CUI. The team hopes the third matchup of the season against the conference foes results in a better outcome.

The first game, played on January 3 at “The Shark Tank”, saw HPU fall in overtime, 92-90. The second game came just a week ago, when the Sharks traveled to CUI as part of the final road trip of the season. A monster second quarter run by CUI proved to be too much, as HPU’s comeback fell short, 78-60.

It was a road trip that head coach Katie Novak was unable to accompany her team on, as the first-year head coach of the program gave birth to her second child, a healthy baby girl born on the morning of February 22. 

“We just didn’t play very consistently,” Novak said Wednesday about her team’s road trip. “We knew this was going to be a hard road trip. We knew with some minor injuries; we wouldn’t have some people and that would hurt depth a little bit. That’s just what you deal with at [the] end of the season.”

The Sharks are expected to be mostly back to full strength as the Golden Eagles come to town. That is important for the Sharks top end talent, but also the depth of the rotation as the team looks to make a run towards a PacWest title.

The Sharks are led by Abby Spurgin, the 2023 PacWest Player of the Year, Newcomer of the Year, and an All-PacWest first-team selection. The 6’3 graduate-student averaged 22 points per contest and more than nine rebounds. The post player also patrols the paint for HPU, leading the team in blocks with more than two per game. 

While Spurgin is the engine, the Sharks have many key pieces that are important to the team’s success. Avery Cargill, the confident senior guard, averages more than 11 points a game to give the Sharks a secondary scoring option on the outside. Her contributions are crucial to opening the offensive end in the paint and from long range. She was selected to the PacWest’s third team for her season. 

Kalina Obrey, the Sharks junior forward from Honolulu, is one of the team’s most dynamic offensive threats and missed both Concordia games this season. The Hawai’i-native averages more than 13 points a game to go along with seven rebounds.  

On the other side of the court, Concordia brings a pair of All-PacWest selections into the contest as well.

CUI graduate guard Jasmine Rachal was also selected to the PacWest’s first-team, averaging over 16 points a night on 37% shooting from long-range. It was Rachal’s second career selection to the first-team squad. She has the fifth-most points in program history, eclipsing the 1,600 point mark this season.

Rachal had 16 points back in the Jan. 3 matchup between the two teams, dealing with foul trouble throughout the game at HPU. The All-PacWest selection got loose in the second matchup though, dropping a game-high 22 points in just 25 minutes.

Sophomore center Teagan Thurman proved to be a big-time addition to the CUI roster, transferring into the program after spending last season at Northwest Nazarene, a Division II institution in Idaho.

The 6’1 transfer earned Third-Team All-PacWest honors for her sophomore campaign, averaging just under 14 points per game and leading the team in rebounds with more than seven boards a contest.

“She’s big and she’s physical,” Novak said of CUI’s sophomore big. “She stays active. There’s not a lot of bigs that are as big as her and Abby [Spurgin] are that can actually move well too. She’s a good player and if you’re not active against a player like that, she’ll take advantage of that.”

The Golden Eagles’ center will be tasked with trying to slow down HPU’s Spurgin, something that CUI was able to do better in the second of the two matchups. Spurgin had 31 points in the Jan. 3 loss to CUI but was held to just 12 points in last week’s loss to the Golden Eagles.

The winner will move on to the semifinals, where Dominican awaits after a dominant 15-5 conference slate. Dominican is the second seed in the tournament, behind Azusa Pacific. Fourth-seeded Biola will take on Point Loma in the other quarterfinal matchup after the Sharks and Golden Eagles play. 

The quarterfinal matchup between HPU and CUI will be broadcast on Hawai’i Sports Radio Network, 95.1 FM, AM 760 and on‘s stream. Tip-off is at 12:30 P.M. HST.