Hawai’i’s Senior Night delight caps off perfect home conference schedule

Hawai’i’s Senior Night delight caps off perfect home conference schedule

Hawai’i’s Senior Night delight caps off perfect home conference schedule

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED MAR 2, 2024

HONOLULU – Special. 

That’s the only word for this Rainbow Wahine basketball program, team and growing fanbase.  

Special. 

The Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine (19-9, 15-3 Big West) sent off Olivia Davies and Ashley Thoms in style Saturday night, hammering the UC Riverside Highlanders (16-12, 11-7 Big West), 62-51, for a big win in the senior duo’s final appearance inside SimpliFi Arena. Daejah Phillips paced Hawai’i with 18 points and nine rebounds in the win as UH completed a perfect 10-0 run through the Big West schedule at home for the first time ever under Laura Beeman. 

Davies dropped in seven points in the victory while Thoms flashed her defensive chops all night by helping hold the conference’s top scorer in Jordan Webster to just 1-of-14 shooting from the floor. 

“I don’t know if I can sum up what Olivia and Tommy mean,” a beaming Beeman said of her seniors following the night. 

Some early offensive jitters for UH were on display in front of the packed-out Stan Sheriff Center as the Rainbow Wahine went 1-for-6 to open things off and fell behind by four entering the first media timeout of the night. The entrance of Jacque David, Kelsie Imai and Daejah Phillips after the stoppage sparked the offense of the Rainbow Wahine to the tune of a 9-2 run to close the opening quarter. 

An and-one for UCR’s to start the second frame knotted the game at 14, but MeiLani McBee’s first 3-pointer of the night gave the lead right back to UH moments later. Lily Wahinekapu doubled the lead up to six a minute later with a deep three from the top of the key and Phillips got a tough layup between a pair of defenders to drop on the very next possession to make it eight points separating each side.  

After UCR’s Makayla Jackson spun home a tough layup to bring the Highlanders back within a pair of 3-pointers, Phillips added three the old-fashioned way for Hawai’i with the hoop and the harm on the other end. UH guard Kelsie Imai brought the Hawai’i lead into double figures for the first time all night with a pair of free throw makes with just over three minutes remaining in the first half. 

UCR and UH traded defensive stops to close out the half, allowing just one free throw make from each side to end the 2nd quarter and head into the locker rooms with Hawai’i leading by 11. 

UH’s Davies got her first points of her Senior Night to begin the 3rd quarter, drilling a left wing three before following it with another trey 45 seconds later to give the Rainbow Wahine a 17-point lead, 36-19. 

UCR’s Webster, the Big West’s leading scorer this season, finally got herself on the board after halftime with a 1-for-2 trip to the charity stripe with 6:48 left in the third, but four straight points from Phillips extended the margin to 20 just after half the quarter had passed. 

The Highlanders brought the contest back within reach just before the end of the 3rd quarter as tempers flared from both sides. Thoms got mixed up with UCR forward Matehya Bryant before Bryant shoved Thoms. The UH guard was assessed a technical foul along with a personal foul while Bryant was given an intentional foul after a lengthy review. 

David pushed Hawai’i’s lead back up to 15 just before the 3rd quarter ended, but Riverside’s Jackson dropped home another bucket for the final points of the frame to pull within 13 heading into the final quarter of action. 

Despite the increasingly closer score, the Hawai’i fans did not waver. 

The raucous crowd continued to cheer on their Rainbow Wahine as Wahinekapu got a layup to drop before the building exploded at a McBee three in transition with seven minutes remaining.  

“There’s nothing like a ‘Sixth Man,’” Beeman said of the ear-piercing crowd. “Every team finds a “why” and our why all year long has been a little bit of Hallie Birdsong, a little bit of each other and it has been a lot for this state – for these fans.” 

The Hawai’i lead remained in the double-digits all the way into one last final minute push from the Highlanders with UCR cutting it to eight with 46 seconds to play, but the lead proved to be enough of a cushion as the Rainbow Wahine closed out their 10th win at home in conference play and 16th Big West win of the season overall, 62-51. 

UC Riverside was led by Makayla Jackson’s 20 points on an impressive 8-for-10 from the field while draining three triples as the guard attempted to keep the visitors within striking distance on Hawai’i’s special night. Jordan Webster ended the night with just 10 points as she was held to an uncharacteristic 1-of-14 from the floor. 

“[Ashley Thoms’] defense has been phenomenal for us all year long,” Beeman said of her unsung defensive hero/perimeter stopper. “To hold [UC Davis guard] Evanne Turner to 0-for-7 from three and then [UCR forward Jordan Webster] to 1-of-14, those are two phenomenal players and we’ve needed Tommy … her grit, her intensity. She’s a phenomenal team player, she’s a great teammate and we’ve needed her throughout this entire season.” 

Hawai’i was paced by Phillips’ 18 points, nine rebounds and four assists off the bench, drawing seven fouls throughout the night as she caused headaches for the Highlanders’ defense. Forward Jacque David poured in 11 points and eight rebounds in the win, going 3-of-4 from long distance to help boost the Rainbow Wahine offense. 

Hawai’i will close out the regular season on the road for the first time in half-a-decade as the Rainbow Wahine visit CSUN and CSU Bakersfield ahead of the Big West tournament. With the victory, UH clinched one of the top two seeds entering the conference tournament. 

Phillips’ career-high pushes first-place Hawai’i by Long Beach State, 80-68

Phillips’ career-high pushes first-place Hawai’i by Long Beach State, 80-68

UH guard Daejah Phillips brings the ball down the floor in a home game. The junior had a career-high 29 points in UH’s 80-68 road win over LBSU on Feb. 24 | Photo credit: Michael Lasquero, HSRN

Phillips’ career-high pushes first-place Hawai’i by Long Beach State, 80-68

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED FEB 24, 2024

LONG BEACH, CA – Daejah doing Daejah things. 

The Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine kept sole possession atop the Big West Saturday afternoon, using a career-high 29 points from junior guard Daejah Phillips to take down Long Beach State on the road with a wire-to-wire win, 80-68. The 80 points are a season-best for UH, surpassing the 73 points scored against San Jose State back on December 3. 

Hawai’i jumped out to an early 10-2 advantage behind back-to-back 3-pointers from MeiLani McBee and Imani Perez. The triple from McBee was the Kennewick, Washington native’s 142nd career 3-pointer, tying the junior with Ashleigh Karaitiana (‘13 – ‘16) for third-most in UH program history. The Rainbow Wahine carried the 8-point cushion through the opening quarter, holding LBSU to 17% shooting across 18 attempts from the floor to take a 19-11 lead into the second frame. 

Long Beach State opened the scoring in the 2nd quarter with a Cheyenne Givens pull-up before McBee answered with a 3-pointer on the other end to give her sole possession of third place amongst long-distance shooters in Hawai’i history. The Beach pulled within four with a 7-2 run over the following two and a half minutes to force a timeout from Laura Beeman’s ‘Bows. 

The break in the action helped UH get back on track, trading baskets with the Beach before Imani Perez’s back-to-back buckets pushed the lead back up to seven just ahead of halftime, 35-28. 

Hawai’i blasted out of the locker rooms with 7 of the first 10 points of the second half to go up double digits for the first time since late in the 1st quarter, but Savannah Tucker hit a three on the other end with 6:43 left in the third to quickly pull LBSU back within eight. 

Then, Daejah was Daejah, again. 

The junior guard ripped off six of UH’s final 11 points in the quarter including back-to-back finishes out of the media timeout as Hawai’i carried a 12-point advantage into the final frame. 

Phillips continued her onslaught, assisting Jacque David for a score to open the 4th quarter before dropping through an and-one to match the Rainbow Wahine’s largest lead to that point at 15 less than a minute into play resuming. Despite a quick LBSU timeout to try and slow Phillips and Hawai’i’s momentum, the stud guard rattled off 13 of UH’s final 20 points as the Rainbow Wahine cruised to an 80-68 victory to reclaim the top of the Big West totem pole. 

Long Beach State was led by Cheyenne Givens’ 14 points off the bench as five different players finished in double digits for the hosting Beach, including three with 12 points apiece. LBSU’s defense was able to force 19 turnovers but only produced 14 points from the UH giveaways. 

Hawai’i was paced by Phillips’ career-best 29 points on 12-of-14 shooting, doing it in just 19 minutes and 41 seconds of action. The junior now has 1,041 points, good enough for 21st-most in UH Rainbow Wahine history. MeiLani McBee finished the night with nine points and seven boards. 

Hawai’i forward Imani Perez chipped in 12 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three blocks in the victory. The sophomore exited with an injury with 3:04 left to play and did not return. 

Laura Beeman’s squad returns to action on Thursday, February 29 to play host to UC Davis, one of just three Big West teams to beat the Rainbow Wahine this season. The Aggies were 61-51 winners over Hawai’i back on February 10. 

Hawai’i keeps cool, downs Cal Poly late to keep atop Big West standings

Hawai’i keeps cool, downs Cal Poly late to keep atop Big West standings

UH forward Imani Perez drives to the hoop in a home contest for the Rainbow Wahine. Hawai’i beat Cal Poly on February 15, 59-47.

Hawai’i keeps cool, downs Cal Poly late to keep atop Big West standings

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED FEB 15, 2024

HONOLULU — Poise pays off. 

The Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine returned home Thursday night after a rough road loss to UC Davis last weekend and came together late to drop the Cal Poly Mustangs, 59-47. UH guard MeiLani McBee led all scorers with 21 points on the night, 12 coming in the fourth quarter to put the game away for the Rainbow Wahine. 

“I thought it was a great, gritty game by the girls particularly in [the fourth quarter]. Cal Poly plays incredibly hard, they’re very, very physical,” Hawai’i head coach Laura Beeman shared postgame. “I thought we played a little frustrated for the first three-and-a-half quarters and I don’t know why other than we wanted it to come easy and [Cal Poly] wasn’t going to let that happen.” 

Cal Poly jumped things off with a bucket on the Mustangs’ first possession, but Hawai’i quickly and calmly responded with seven of the next nine points to take a three-point advantage into the game’s first media timeout. The Rainbow Wahine continued chugging along offensively as they doubled the Cal Poly output by the quarter’s three-minute mark, 12-6, but the Mustangs would keep the game within a possession going into the second quarter after guard Annika Shah drained a three with just under 30 seconds to play in the first period. 

Visiting Cal Poly continued the momentum with five of the second quarter’s first seven points to knot things at 19, holding the Rainbow Wahine without a point for over four minutes after Lily Wahinekapu’s short jumper to open the frame. UH guard Daejah Phillips got herself going shortly after the second-quarter media timeout by scoring the next five Rainbow Wahine points to push Hawai’i back out in front before connecting with Jacque David on a post-seal feed for a layup to give UH a seven-point lead with just over two minutes remaining the opening half. Once again, Cal Poly’s Shah showed out with late-clock heroics to drill a step back triple to bring the Mustangs within two scores before Wahinekapu got a turnaround jumper to drop at the buzzer to head into the locker room up six, 28-22.  

Hawai’i maintained that six-point halftime lead through the first four minutes out of halftime, trading basket for basket and point for point with Cal Poly before Amanda Olinger’s three from the top of the key made it a three-point game with 5:41 left in the third quarter. The Rainbow Wahine responded after the period’s media timeout with four straight points to push their lead out to seven, but a Sidney Richards’ layup and Sierra Lichtie’s two makes from the charity stripe to close the quarter brought the Mustangs within three entering the fourth, 38-35. 

The visitors continued rolling through the quarter break, taking Cal Poly’s first lead since the opening moments of the contest as Richards drained a pair of free throws to make it 39-38 in favor of the Mustangs. Hawai’i snatched the lead right back as Wahinekapu got the hoop-and-harm to regain a two-point advantage on the next possession. Cal Poly’s Olinger put back her own miss with 5:42 left to play to knot things at 41 momentarily before Hawai’i’s McBee drained her second triple of the night to give a 44-41 lead to the Rainbow Wahine going into the night’s final media timeout.  

Ashley Thoms, who had been battered and bruised all night, hustled around a Mustangs’ screen to force an offensive foul before Kelsie Imai found a cutting McBee backdoor for an and-one to extend the Rainbow Wahine lead back out to six. Cal Poly’s Shah knocked down a three on the following possession to bring the Mustangs within a possession with 4:01 left to play, but that was the closest the visitors would get for the remainder of the night as Sydney Bourland was assessed a technical foul and McBee scored six points in 15 seconds of game action to suddenly give the Rainbow Wahine breathing room. 

“Losing your poise costs you seven points,” Hawai’i’s Beeman said postgame in reference to the Rainbow Wahine’s ability to stay calm down the stretch in a physical game. “You know, we sunk the free throws. We’ve been in a position in the past where we maybe would’ve lost our poise and putting them to the free throw line… [There is] a difference between playing with emotions and playing emotional and I think we played with great emotion tonight, but we did not get emotional.” 

With newfound comfort in the lead, Hawai’i closed out the final minute and a half with six more points while knocking down all four foul shots attempts for the Rainbow Wahine’s sixth Big West win holding an opponent below the half-century mark, 59-47. 

Cal Poly was led by guard Annika Shah’s 14 points on three 3-point makes and 5-of-13 shooting overall in the loss. The Mustangs were held to a rocky 33% shooting from the floor across 51 shots, going 6-of-19 from distance as Cal Poly fell for just the fourth time in Big West play. 

UH McBee’s 21 points led all scorers as the junior guard poured in 12 points in the final quarter to help push the Rainbow Wahine over the top. Sophomore forward Imani Perez added 10 rebounds and four blocks to go along with her five points across just three shots in the win. 

Hawai’i returns to the hardwood Saturday night for “Beeman’s Big Bash” and a rematch of last year’s Big West Tournament championship game when UC Santa Barbara comes to town. General admission tickets for the game are $7, while seniors can save a couple bucks on the price of a ticket at just $5. Keiki are FREE as the Rainbow Wahine attempt to set the attendance record inside SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center for a Laura Beeman-coached game for Hawai’i. 

Hawai’i remains hot, grabs season sweep of UC Irvine behind McBee’s strong 2nd half

Hawai’i remains hot, grabs season sweep of UC Irvine behind McBee’s strong 2nd half

UH guard MeiLani McBee handles the ball in a Feb. 1 game against Cal State Fullerton. McBee had a team-high 14 points two days later in a win against UC Irvine. | Photo Credit: Michael Lasquero, HSRN

Hawai’i remains hot, grabs season sweep of UC Irvine behind McBee’s strong 2nd half

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED FEB 3, 2024

HONOLULU — Not bad practice before “Beeman’s Big Bash” for UH. 

In a fight for first place in the Big West, the Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine (12-8, 9-2 Big West) muscled past the UC Irvine Anteaters, 55-43, Saturday night inside SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center to take sole possession of first place in the conference. 

UH entered the night tied atop the league with UCI (14-7, 8-3 Big West), excited for another chance to defend home court in front of over 1,500 fans and avenge last season’s overtime loss inside the Stan to the Anteaters. The young women responded with an inspired defensive effort against a physical UC Irvine squad, tying the second lowest point total against the Rainbow Wahine since BWC play started. 

“We love Hawai’i, we love playing for our fans and when we can do what we’re supposed to do on our home court, that means a lot to our kids,” Hawai’i head coach Laura Beeman said of her squad after moving to 6-0 inside the friendly confines of Mānoa since Big West play began and 8-3 overall at SimpliFi Arena this season. 

Hawai’i guard Olivia Davies opened the scoring with a left-wing triple, banking in the try to give the lead to the hometown Rainbow Wahine just a minute into action. UCI responded in turn, rattling off the next six points to take a 6-3 lead with 4:59 remaining in the opening quarter. Freshman guard Jade Peacock would end a near-six-minute scoring drought for UH with a pair of free throws before the Rainbow Wahine jumped back ahead 25 seconds later as Daejah Phillips went coast-to-coast and dropped in a layup over the front of the iron to make it 7-6.  

In all, the Rainbow Wahine closed the opening frame on a 10-3 run behind their defense and quality foul shooting to take a 13-9 lead into the second. 

UH’s dynamic backcourt of Phillips and Lily Wahinekapu continued to produce on the offensive end, trading turns creating points for the Rainbow Wahine as the advantage grew as large as 10 not even midway through the second quarter. Hawai’i would maintain around the double-digit lead up until right before halftime when UCI’s Nikki Tom stole away a Davies pass and quickly pushed it ahead to Deja Lee for a layup to beat the clock and bring the Anteaters within nine at the break, 27-18.  

Star sophomore forward Imani Perez, back from a one-game absence due to personal reasons, got the Hawai’i scoring going once again to open the third quarter by draining a mid-range jumper from the top of the key to make it an 11-point lead before back-to-back buckets from Lee brought the visitors back within seven.

After seeing the Hawai’i lead go back up to 11, UC Irvine head coach Tamara Inoue and staff decided to employ a 2-2-1 zone press, slowing down the Rainbow Wahine offense enough to cut the margin down to six with two and a half minutes left in the period — enough to make for an awkwardly-anxious crowd inside the Stan Sheriff Center. 

Laura Beeman’s battle-tested squad did not flinch despite the ever-shrinking lead, responding calmly with a Davies drive-and-kick to a wide open Wahinekapu for a much-needed three-pointer to give UH a nine-point lead heading into the final 10 minutes. 

The Rainbow Wahine opened the final frame with a continued hot hand from long range as MeiLani McBee showed off the quick trigger on a pair of threes and Perez got the hoop-and-harm to extend to a 14-point lead for UH.

“Great to have Imani back,” Beeman smiled admitting postgame. “We needed her as much as she needed us.” 

Despite the Anteaters’ best efforts, UCI’s 0-of-15 night from long distance and the Rainbow Wahine’s defensive grit saw Hawai’i close out the victory, 55-43. 

“We knew it was going to be physical, it was physical the first time [against UC Irvine],” Perez said postgame. “[Coach Beeman] says that we need to be the aggressor and I feel like our team was really ready to take hits today and we knew what they were coming out with.” 

The hard-fought battle resulted in 37 free throws being taken between the two squads and likely just as many bruises from block-outs underneath the basket as the Rainbow Wahine dominated the glass, 44-32.  

“Like I said on Thursday, they are an aggressive team, and we knew we needed to be aggressive, and I think we capitalized on it today,” McBee added. 

McBee led the way in scoring for Hawai’i, dropping all 14 of her points in the second half while collecting seven rebounds along the way. UH’s Wahinekapu added 11 points while Perez piled up 10 points to go along with six boards in her return. 

UCI’s Deja Lee led all scorers with 21 points on 9-of-19 shooting, racking up four steals on the night. No other UC Irvine player broke the double-digit threshold for points as Hawai’i held the Anteaters to just 25% (16-of-64 FG) shooting from the floor overall. 

UH hits the road once again next week for a two-game trip, facing off with UC San Diego for the second time this season before stopping by UC Davis. Hawai’i was a 64-52 winner over UCSD back on January 20 at home and enters the game as the lone team atop the Big West totem pole.  

Short-handed Hawai’i fights by CSU Fullerton despite Lewis’ season-high

Short-handed Hawai’i fights by CSU Fullerton despite Lewis’ season-high

Hawai’i guard Daejah Phillips pulls up for a jumper during the second half of the Rainbow Wahine’s 66-61 win over CSU Fullerton. | Photo Credit: Michael Lasquero, HSRN

Short-handed Hawai’i fights by CSU Fullerton despite Lewis’ season-high

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED FEB 1, 2024

HONOLULU — Just another night in the Stan. 

Down two starters that stand over 6-foot-4, it took some time for UH to figure out the size and strength of Ashlee Lewis and Cal State Fullerton on Thursday night.  

For Hawai’i, figuring out challenges of changing personnel within the ebbs and flows of the season is nothing new, so they just turned to the backcourt for help. 

The Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine (11-8, 8-2 Big West) used the hot-handed backcourt of Lily Wahinekapu and Daejah Phillips to eek out a home victory over the CSU Fullerton Titans (7-13, 3-7 Big West), 66-61. The backcourt duo combined for 36 of the Rainbow Wahine’s 66 total points, 30 of which came after the halftime break, as Laura Beeman’s squad remained tied atop the Big West with UC Irvine, posting their eighth win in ten conference games. 

Forward Jacque David, starting in place for usual standout Imani Perez for the first time this season and first time since suffering a season-ending injury during the 2022-23 season, got the scoring started for both sides with a left-wing three-pointer for her first long-range make in just five games of action this season. 

CSU Fullerton responded with an 11 straight points as the home squad struggled to find the touch on the jump shot, going up by eight just over halfway through the opening quarter. Following the first media break of the night, the Rainbow Wahine ripped off an 8-2 run of their own to cut the Titans’ lead to two before CSUF’s Hope Hassmann beat the first quarter buzzer with a left-wing three to go into the second up, 16-11.

Hawai’i tied the game with just under six minutes left in the first half as Meilani McBee drained her first three of the night, making it 18-all before Fujika Nimmo answered on the following possession to put the visitors back in front by a trifecta. After a couple of traded baskets, UH’s Jade Peacock got a decent look just before the halftime horn that went off the mark as the ‘Bows entered halftime trailing, 25-22. 

The Rainbow Wahine started the second half the same as the first as David knocked home her second three-pointer of the night to knot things momentarily at 25, stacking that on top of a forced shot-clock violation on the other end before CSUF rattled off six points in a row to reclaim the lead. Behind former Titan and newly-minted 1,000-point collegiate scorer Lily Wahinekapu, UH tied the game once again at 33 about midway through the quarter. 

Hawai’i finally re-took the lead with just over a minute left in the third as Daejah Phillips took over, driving by Ashlee Lewis for a right-handed layup before drilling a right-corner three to push the Rainbow Wahine ahead, 43-42. CSUF’s Eva Levingston knocked down a pair of free throws on the other end to push the away squad ahead but again, Phillips would answer with two points of her own – giving Hawai’i a one-point lead heading into the final quarter of play. 

Wahinekapu began the final 10 minutes with another bucket, extending the UH advantage to three before Levingston knotted it back up at 47. The forward for the Titans fouled out just a few possessions later as the “Daejah Show” continued with a foray to the cup, plus the foul, to make it 51-51 with just under six minutes remaining. Kelsie Imai pushed Hawai’i back out in front with a pair of makes from the charity stripe and Phillips rattled off back-to-back buckets to make it a six-point lead for the Rainbow Wahine with 3:18 left to play.  

The Titans wouldn’t concede the contest to Hawai’i quite yet, playing the foul game to extend the clock as Lewis put up a pair of baskets while UH missed four consecutive free throws to make the Stan Sheriff Center crowd on hand sweat a bit before Phillips, Imai and Wahinekapu closed things out from the line to keep the Rainbow Wahine perfect at home since conference play began, taking down CSU Fullerton, 66-61. 

CSU Fullerton’s Ashlee Lewis posted a season-best 25 points to go along with 13 rebounds, leading both teams in those categories. Hope Hassman chipped in 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting in the loss for the Titans. 

Hawai’i’s Phillips also posted a season-high in points with 22 in just 26 minutes, showing potential as a small-ball forward after Beeman experimented with Phillips and McBee staffing the four and five positions down Brooklyn Rewers and Imani Perez. MeiLani McBee closed the night with 11 points, going just 1-of-7 from distance but providing excellent post defense without fouling late to help lead the Rainbow Wahine to the win. 

The victory sets up an exciting Saturday night clash of the Big West’s best as Hawai’i welcomes UC Irvine into Mānoa for a first-place bout. Both teams are currently tied atop the conference standings with identical 8-2 records in Big West play, though the Anteaters did not play Thursday night after Cal Poly was forced to forfeit the contest and enter Saturday in the islands with just one game that needed to prep for this week. 

“I think knowing that we missed an opportunity to defend home court last year [versus UC Irvine] … knowing what they had to prepare for this week? It’s going to be personal,” McBee said ahead of Saturday’s matchup.