UH Rainbow Wahine HC Laura Beeman looks on during “Beeman’s Big Bash” on Feb. 17. The 12th-year head coach picked up her 200th win at UH in Hawai’i’s regular-season finale at CSU Bakersfield on March 9. | Photo Credit: Michael Lasquero, HSRN

Beeman collects 200th UH win as Rainbow Wahine beat Cal State Bakersfield

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED MAR 9, 2024

BAKERSFIELD, CA – Two bills for Laura Beeman. 

The 12th-year head coach secured her 200th win as the head coach of the Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine basketball program Saturday afternoon, becoming the second head coach in program history to hit the milestone (Vincent Goo, 334 wins) as UH clinched their third Big West regular season crown under Beeman and fifth overall. While the Rainbow Wahine clinched a share of the regular season title on Thursday with a win over CSUN, Saturday’s victory delivered lone possession of the top of the conference as the regular season ends. 

“The locker room was amazing, these kids are truly amazing,” the longtime head coach said after the game. “To win a conference championship outright, the way these kids did it, I could not be more proud and this staff could not be more proud. These guys get it done and we’re really excited to end our regular season this way.” 

Hawai’i drilled a season-high 17 3-pointers, one short of the UH WBB program record for a single game, as the Rainbow Wahine walloped CSU Bakersfield on the road in the regular-season finale, 85-48. The 85 points for UH mark a season-high and the second time this year they have eclipsed the 80-point threshold. 

Though they rested senior guard Olivia Davies, the Rainbow Wahine enjoyed the return of sophomore Imani Perez after the 6-foot-4 forward missed the previous three games after suffering a lower-leg injury late against Long Beach State on February 24. It was the first time all season that Hawai’i had all three of the Jacque David, Brooklyn Rewers and Perez active for the same game.  

“It was just amazing to see the chemistry and see that they’re all feeling good and getting back, comfortable playing on the court and playing together,” Hawai’i assistant coach Khalilah Mitchell, who Beeman says oversees a majority of rotations and substitutions, said of the frontcourt trio finally getting to play in the same game together. “[It’s been good for us] just seeing what lineups work with each other to see what we have to do as we go through the tournament, to see who is going to be the best lineups for who our opponents are.” 

Hawai’i blitzed Bakersfield early, making the team’s first nine shots – the first being Perez knocking down a free-throw line jumper – on the way to a 25-14 lead after 10 minutes of action. Daejah Phillips and the Rainbow Wahine defense keyed the run as the junior guard scored nine points in the opening frame and UH held the Roadrunners to just 23.5% shooting from the field. 

The Roadrunners saw UH continue to grow the lead, pushing it all the way to 19 after MeiLani McBee cashed in on her first triple of the afternoon before CSUB’s offense finally awoke. An 11-2 run to close the first half for Cal State Bakersfield helped bring the margin back to 10 at the break, 37-27.  

Perez opened the 2nd half with a 3-pointer of her own, foreshadowing the upcoming onslaught of triples the Rainbow Wahine would rain down in the third quarter. UH’s Ashley Thoms rang in from deep right before Phillips did the same on the next possession to give a 14-point lead to Hawai’i just over three minutes out of the break. 

Then, it was suddenly Lily Wahinekapu’s world. 

The junior standout scored 11 of the next 13 points for Hawai’i as the Rainbow Wahine lead pushed over the 20-point mark with just under two minutes left in the 3rd quarter. Wahinekapu knocked down three 3-pointers in the frame to make it a 22-point lead before McBee showed off the shooters’ touch on back-to-back 3-pointers to end the period up by 28. 

Hawai’i refused to take the foot off the gas pedal once the final frame began as freshman forward Vivienne Berrett pushed the Rainbow Wahine lead to 30 with her first bucket of the day and fellow freshie Jade Peacock drilled another three for the first two 4th quarter possessions for UH. 

“This is what we wanted to do,” Beeman said postgame about her team’s impressive performance. “We talked about it as a staff that we wanted to have a dominating last game going into [the Big West Tournament]. We did not want there to be any doubt that we are the number one team in this conference from start to finish.” 

Wahinekapu put home two more jumpers to push her point total to 22, a season-high for the junior, as Hawai’i watched the lead grow to nearly 40 over the final minutes before a few CSU Bakersfield baskets right before the end allowed the Roadrunners to escape without becoming the lowest point total allowed for UH this season with 48 points. 

David would close the fun on the day for the Rainbow Wahine with one last long-range make from the left corner for UH’s 17th 3-pointer of the game, setting a new season-high and falling just one make short of the program record 18 3-pointers in a single game as Hawai’i won their 17th conference game of the year and 20th overall, 85-48. 

“I think that the seeding committee definitely takes a look at how you’re playing at the end [of the regular season],” Beeman said when asked about the significance of reaching the 20-win threshold. “We wanted to get to that 20th win for the seeding, for the championship, for the state of Hawai’i, for these kids… that’s what we’re pushing for, for sure.”  

Phillips added 12 points in the win for the Rainbow Wahine, who saw 10 different players score throughout the game and eight different players make a 3-pointer. The “team” aspect of UH was on display all day, tallying 20 assists on 31 made field goals. 

Hawai’i enters the Big West Tournament with a double-bye, riding a seven-game winning streak as they await in the tournament semifinals. UH will play the first of the two semifinal games on March 15 with tip-off scheduled for 9 a.m. HT, looking to return to the Big West Tournament championship game for the third straight season and defend their back-to-back conference tournament crowns.