HPU sweeps through weekend set with Chaminade, cruise into PacWest Tournament

HPU sweeps through weekend set with Chaminade, cruise into PacWest Tournament

HPU sweeps through weekend set with Chaminade, cruise into PacWest Tournament

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED APR 28, 2024

HONOLULU – Things went swimmingly for one team at the Les last weekend. 

Facing off with O’ahu-rival Chaminade (15-33) for a four-game series and the Swords’ senior celebration, the Hawai’i Pacific University Sharks needed four wins to surpass the 30-win mark – a threshold the program had not broken since the 2016 season. After a pair of wins on Saturday, Hawai’i Pacific had clinched a top-2 seed heading into the PacWest Tournament as the Sharks finally returned to postseason play for the first time since 2010. 

Still, Dane Fujinaka had his squad’s eyes on higher prizes with hopes at making the program a near shoe-in for a selection to the 2024 NCAA Tournament, regardless of a PacWest Championships title or not. A huge step towards making an NCAA Tournament-worthy resume: win 30-plus games. 

With victories of 7-6 and 9-3 over Chaminade on Sunday, the Sharks’ regular-season goal was reached as Fujinaka’s team pushed its record to 30-20 overall, going 17-15 during PacWest competition for the second-best finish among tournament-eligible programs. In a year that has been up-and-down to the max, HPU is back on the upswing at the perfect time. 

“We put it together for all four games [versus Chaminade],” said the Sharks’ head coach after his team’s 9-3 victory Sunday night. “I’m pleased with the way we’ve played, but it’s obviously great having [the momentum of a six-game win streak] going into the tournament that we’re going to play in. [There are] four really good teams where anybody can beat everybody, so we’ve got to be ready to go.” 

GAME 1: Hawai’i Pacific 7, Chaminade 6 

Xaiver Stoker got the start for the Silverswords as Shea Blanchard took the mound for the Sharks in Sunday’s first game. 

Stoker quickly became acquainted with a streaky HPU lineup as the Sharks pushed across a pair of runs in the 1st inning with a 2-out RBI ground-rule double from right fielder Noah Hata. The Swords scratched a run across in the bottom of the frame to cut the lead in half, 2-1. 

HPU worked quickly to reclaim the multi-run advantage as Haydon Huff led off the inning with a single, was pushed over to second on a sacrifice bunt and came around to score on a Nicholas Jio RBI single to left field. The Sharks extended their lead in the top of the 3rd as Hata and Huff scored on a base-hit up the middle by Elijah Igawa to make it 5-1 while Blanchard continued to spin a gem on the mound with three consecutive scoreless frames after his one-run opening inning. 

Chaminade began to get to Blanchard once again in the bottom of the 5th, putting the first two batters on with a walk and a well-struck single before Owen Schnaible came on in relief for the right-handed starter. The call to the bullpen didn’t help matters much as Schnaible hit the first batter he faced before a fielder’s choice, E-6 allowed a pair Swords to score and cut the HPU lead down in half after five innings of play, 5-3. 

CUH freshman Jackson Peper made it a whole new ballgame in the bottom of the 6th, drilling an RBI double to left field off of HPU’s Mac Leisher that allowed a pair of Silverswords to score to tie the game at 5-all after six innings. 

Again, Hawai’i Pacific calmly responded as shortstop TJ Smith led off the top of the 7th with a single before coming around to score the go-ahead run when a Chase Taylor single skipped by the Chaminade left fielder all the way to the fence, allowing Taylor to advance to third himself. He would come in to score moments later as Hata hit an RBI sacrifice fly to right field to give the Sharks a 7-5 lead. 

Chaminade would make one final push as freshman Joey DeCoeur blasted his first career homerun over the fence at Les Murakami Stadium to bring the Swords within a run in the 8th, but HPU closer Ryan Inouye slammed the door shut in the bottom of the 9th with his 13th save of the year, a new single-season program record for the Sharks. 

“Hats off to [Chaminade] and the coaching staff,” Fujinaka said of the Silverswords. “Chad [Konishi] has put together a really good team and a really good young core group. [I think] they’re going to be really competitive from here on out, they were this year even being their first year.” 

GAME 2: Hawai’i Pacific 9, Chaminade 3 

The night’s second contest started slower for the Sharks, being retired in order as Chaminade senior and Saint Louis alum JT Navyac struck out the side in his final appearance on a college mound. 

It would be the Silverswords striking first in the bottom of the 2nd as fellow Chaminade senior Haruki Kitazaki singled to center, moving Navyac to second base while scoring Ryan Ruch. Freshman Jaren Baris brought Navyac home a couple batters later with a single down the right field line, making it a 2-0 advantage for the Swords to open Senior Night. 

Hawai’i Pacific struck back in a big way in the top of the 3rd, tallying five runs while recording just one out take control of the game. Infielder Caleb Millikan batted twice in the inning, leading things off with a single before grounding out to shortstop for the final out. 

The lead ballooned to 9-2 in the 5th when the Sharks’ bats came alive again. Chase Taylor doubled home Skylar Agnew to re-start the scoring before coming around to score himself on a 2-out single from Frankie Peralez. After Peralez stole second, Millikan snuck a ball fair down the right field line for an RBI triple and scored HPU’s final run the very next batter as Jio delivered another RBI double. 

Shea Lake enjoyed a sparkling night on the bump in game two for the Sharks, spinning five strong innings with just four hits allowed, striking out three while only allowing a singular earned run and two runs total in the win. He gave way to Owen Schnaible, who gave up a run in just 0.1 innings pitched in the sixth as Chaminade’s Navyac had a run-scoring single poke through the middle of the infield. 

After Vicente Molina calmed things down for HPU in the bottom of the 6th to maintain a 9-3 lead, Jeremy Kahle locked it down to finish the Sharks’ 30th win of the year with a pair of strikeouts in the 7th to send Chaminade packing into the offseason. 

“It’s huge,” Fujinaka said of HPU clinching 30 wins on the year. “From Day 1 [this season], our goal was to win at least 30 games and we thought that would put us in a spot to make the tournament and have a chance at an at-large bid.” 

WHAT NEXT? 

Hawai’i Pacific now awaits the PacWest Championship tournament, which takes place this season at Azusa Pacific’s home field in California. The Sharks will face off against Concordia-Irvine in the opening round of the double-elimination, no-byes tournament. HPU fell in the first of four games against CUI back on April 12, dropping a one-run decision 4-3 before sweeping through the following three contests in Irvine, California with three wins by outscoring the Golden Eagles over those games, 31-11. 

“Offensively, [when] we put the ball in play, we play small ball, we run a lot of action,” Fujinaka said when asked about what a fully-clicking HPU team looks like. “[When we are] successful on the mound, we’re able to get ahead and throw our pitches … and on defense, we take care of the ball. I think when we’re doing those three things, it’s really hard to beat us.” 

CUI’s Jake Covey spun 7.2 innings of 2-run ball against the Sharks in that April 12 loss, striking out eight HPU batters while working around consistent traffic on the basepaths. According to Fujinaka, the Sharks are expecting to see Covey once again to open the tournament. For HPU, it’s a chance at redemption in the program’s first appearance in the two-year history of the conference tournament. 

The tournament’s top seed is three-time defending regular season PacWest champions Point Loma, who has spent a majority of the season in the national rankings. Tournament hosts Azusa Pacific round out the top four teams in the conference. 

With eyes on a potential postseason berth, Fujinaka and HPU have eyes on locking in a spot with the program’s first PacWest title in baseball since 2010. To do so, a gauntlet of talented teams awaits them. The Sharks went a combined 7-5 in the three respective series against the other tournament qualifiers, sweeping APU while being swept by PLNU. 

Chaminade competes, never retreats in first full season in over 40 years

Chaminade competes, never retreats in first full season in over 40 years

Chaminade competes, never retreats in first full season in 40 years

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED APR 29, 2024

HONOLULU – Following a weekend that saw rival HPU sweep them, the Chaminade Silverswords had smiles on their faces. 

On Senior Night, the team celebrated a pair of seniors that had a bit of a different experience through their final year of eligibility. No, they hadn’t helped them win the game that night, but the team relished the opportunity to be out on the field together playing baseball. 

The final record for the Silverswords is an uninspiring one at first glance, an expected casualty of a program in phase one of a total rebuild after more than four decades away from the diamond. Upon further inspection, it’s easy to see how Chad Konishi’s team has built a foundation for the future. 

“Really proud of [the team’s] efforts. I tell people that I don’t think our record is indicative of how hard we played,” the first-year skipper for the Swords said after Chaminade’s Senior Night game. “Success isn’t built on one-year wins and losses. I think the experience that the young kids got, the [Junior College] kids taking it to the next level, all that kind of stuff [is important].” 

Built up of 26 first-year college athletes, a various number of transfers and a few local boys returning to suit up for baseball in Hawai’i once again, the Swords scratched across 15 wins while providing plenty of scares to other teams – including the University of Hawai’i during a 2-0 loss on April 16 at Les Murakami Stadium where the Chaminade pitching staff only allowed four hits all night. While Konishi’s hope was to eclipse the 20-win threshold, struggles closing out close games crushed those chances as CUH fell 12 times by two runs or fewer with nine of those losses coming by a single run. 

Typically, “experience” for young players at each level includes a fair share of mistakes. This year’s edition of the Silverswords were no different as they tied with UH-Hilo for the most errors committed in the PacWest this season with 84 blunders while the youthful pitching staff allowed a league-high 286 earned runs across 48 contests as they worked on honing their craft. 

“Could we work smarter? Yeah, but I was really proud of their competitiveness. Some days we lacked execution, some days we didn’t,” Konishi reflected. 

The seeds for success are sprinkled all throughout the season for Chaminade, who tied for the least amount of total home runs allowed this season with just 27 long balls against the Swords’ staff. The offense of the Swords, while lacking power, was built upon patience, finishing the season with the 3rd-most walks drawn by any team in the conference. 

“We don’t have our own field, we practice at the Ala Wai and not one day did [the team] ever complain practicing there or whatever,” Konishi proudly said of his team. “They showed up early in the mornings for practice, they worked hard.” 

That hard work didn’t come accidentally. A sizable portion of the Chaminade roster felt overlooked or underrecruited, coming to put on the blue and white for an opportunity to prove themselves at the next level, either from JUCO or high school. With them, Konishi needed some senior leadership for his foundational team. He found exactly that when Kailua product and Cal State Fullerton transfer JT Navyac gave Konishi and staff a chance to help him close out his college career at home. The pitcher/infielder spent three seasons in California, appearing in 102 games before joining the Silverswords’ historic first group back on the field for his final year of eligibility. 

He gave eight games of pitching to the Swords while appearing in the field for 44 total contests, racking up 36 hits at the plate. Playing one final time at home inside the friendly confines of Les Murakami Stadium, Navyac twirled a 1-2-3 inning with three strikeouts in his final pitching appearance and recorded an RBI single in his final at-bat. 

Navyac said the highlight of the season for himself came during those final seven frames against HPU. 

“Being able to start, get three strikeouts and then my last at-bat having an RBI single is awesome,” the senior said. “Being able to play in front of my family and friends was awesome. Coach Chad [Konishi] gave me the opportunity and I thought ‘why not?’ and I had a great time. We improved a lot, had fun and as a first-year program I think we made a lot of steps forward. A lot of things to work on and understand but I think there’s a good future for Chaminade.” 

Konishi acknowledged it being important to bring the utility man home for the future of the program, even if it only meant one year of having Navyac on the roster. The longtime baseball coach was extremely thankful that the Saint Louis alum gave his program a chance over other local competitors HPU and UH-Hilo. The veteran leadership of Navyac allowed for continued growth of three high-school shortstops into a first year of college by showing them the right way to go about their business on and off the field. 

Chaminade’s other senior, Haruki Kitazaki, was an example of taking your chance and running with it after he worked his way into the lineup midseason and never let go of the spot. After originally being on the block to not travel with the team, Kitazaki changed his season at Biola with a 2-for-4 day at the plate and a run scored in the second game of a doubleheader, starting the final 12 games of the year after that performance. 

“His time came up and he was put into the lineup, and he started to have some success. He hadn’t come out of the lineup until we took him out in honor of his senior inning,” Konishi shined about Kitazaki. “[Navyac and Kitazaki] couldn’t be two better kids that played for us for one year … [we were] fortunate enough to have both of them.” 

While the two leaders will graduate and move on, Chaminade returns multiple intriguing pieces such as first-year catcher Joe DeCoeur, who smacked a solo homerun out of Les Murakami Stadium’s confines in the Swords’ season-ending double-header against Hawai’i Pacific for his first long ball of the year. Fellow first-year Evon Williams showed glimmers of potential at third base and at the plate with hits in five of his final eight games. On the mound, first-year right-hander Rhyn Chambers “emerged” as a standout with a 1.66 ERA, allowing just 11 hits to 26 strikeouts across 16 appearances for the Silverswords. 

“I think the future is bright,” Konishi said. “I know we’re not there … we’re close but yet we’re not close, you know? I think we’re on our way, but we have to make some strides.” 

The head skipper pointed to the weight room as a key area for the Swords to invest time in during the offseason as the team hit a conference-low 12 home runs in 48 games. With more than 20 high-school players seeing considerable time in the field, Chaminade’s core was made up of a more youthful collection than opponents. 

A full offseason program for strength and conditioning for his young players will go a long way, says Konishi. With added strength and stamina, an already talented group looks to increase production and ranking among PacWest participants. 

“As I said in the beginning of the fall, I think putting a team out on the field was an accomplishment in itself,” Konishi stated. “We’re hoping that guys return and that they enjoy their experience here in Hawai’i, at school and the with program. We’ll start to fill in the holes that we think we need to replace.” 

Brown, Paulsen power PLNU to 2nd half comeback, halt UH-Hilo run in PacWest Semifinals

Brown, Paulsen power PLNU to 2nd half comeback, halt UH-Hilo run in PacWest Semifinals

Brown, Paulsen power PLNU to 2nd half comeback, halt UH-Hilo run in PacWest Semifinals

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED MAR 8, 2024

SAN DIEGO, CA – So close. 

The University of Hawai’i-Hilo Vulcans saw the season end Friday afternoon as the fifth-seeded squad watched a double-digit halftime lead disappear to tournament hosts and top overall seed Point Loma (21-8, 15-5 PacWest), falling in the PacWest Men’s Basketball Championships’ semifinal round, 74-69. 

The Vulcans (19-12, 12-8 PacWest), who picked up the program’s first win in the conference tournament event that has gone on since 2013 on Thursday, opened the semifinals similar to their quarterfinal start by scoring six of the game’s first eight points to take a 6-2 lead just over four minutes into action. 

The nice start for the lower-seeded UH-Hilo continued through the first media timeout, going up by five after Zoar Nedd drilled a long-range shot before seeing PLNU tie the game at nine-all. Nedd gave the lead right back to the Vulcans with a short jumper to make it 11-9 and helped grow the lead back to four a few minutes later with his second three-ball of the day. 

The return of 2nd-team All-PacWest selection Carlos Ramsey Jr. boosted the Vulcans lead even more as the southpaw shooting guard rattled off five points in a row to make it a 25-14 advantage for UH-H with under eight minutes left in the opening half of play. Kaniela Aiona’s squad carried that momentum through the end of the period, staving off a PLNU run that brought the Sea Lions back within a possession by answering with an impressive run of their own to enter the break leading, 38-27. 

A switch to a zone defense by Point Loma to begin the 2nd half proved to be a heady move by 1st year head coach Justin Downer as the Sea Lions – behind 13 consecutive points from forward Wynton Brown to open the half – quickly sliced the Vulcans’ lead to three, 43-40, just three minutes and forty seconds out of the break. 

UH-Hilo clung to the lead, answering back with a short run of their own that was capped by a Jake Kosakowski triple to push the lead back to nine with 11 minutes left in regulation. Point Loma would respond once again, showing off true championship resolve behind Seattle Pacific transfer Zack Paulsen, a 1st-team All PacWest selection and the conference’s Newcomer of the Year winner. 

The junior guard assisted on a Nick Watkins triple before Luke Smith strung off five straight points. Then, it was Paulsen’s show. 

The 6-foot-4 guard drained a deep three to bring the Sea Lions within two, 60-58, with six minutes left to play and seemingly shifted the momentum back in the favor of the regular season co-champions. Brown dropped home a layup to knot the game at 60 and Paulsen re-tied the game on the next possession with a pull up of his own. 

He delivered the Sea Lions’ first lead since the game’s opening moments two minutes after tying it at 62, getting another short jumper to fall to push PLNU ahead with three minutes remaining. 

Another 3-pointer from Smith pushed the lead to five for the Sea Lions before UH-Hilo guard Charles Elzie III answered quickly with a drive to the rim to make it a one-possession game, 67-64. Another Paulsen finish gave the five-point advantage back to Point Loma with 90 seconds left in regulation, giving the breathing room needed for the Sea Lions to hold on as Paulsen and Brown went a perfect 4-of-4 from the charity stripe to ice it, 74-69. 

Point Loma was paced by Brown’s 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the floor as the Sea Lions advance to their second consecutive PacWest Championships title game. Zack Paulsen poured in 16 points, seven rebounds and four assists in the win as the PacWest Newcomer of the Year attempts to deliver back-to-back titles to PNLU. 

UH-Hilo’s Kalique Mitchell finished his collegiate career by leading the Vulcans in scoring, dropping 16 points to go with eight rebounds as the fifth-seeded squad dropped out in the semifinals of the tournament. Nadjrick Peat and Carlos Ramsey Jr. both added 12 points apiece in the loss, though both are expected to return to another talented Vulcans team next year. 

Point Loma will face #6 seed Azusa Pacific on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. HT, looking to win back-to-back conference titles despite major injuries up and down the roster.

UH-Hilo’s hot shooting leads Vulcans to wire-to-wire win in rubber match with Biola

UH-Hilo’s hot shooting leads Vulcans to wire-to-wire win in rubber match with Biola

UH-Hilo’s hot shooting leads Vulcans to wire-to-wire win in rubber match with Biola

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED MAR 7, 2024

SAN DIEGO, CA – The University of Hawai’i Hilo Vulcans are heating up right at the best time.  

UH-H head coach Kaniela Aiona continued his build of the Vulcans’ men’s basketball program with a major milestone win Thursday afternoon, avenging last season’s PacWest quarterfinal loss against Biola with a wire-to-wire victory in this year’s version of the event against a similar Eagles squad.  

The win for the Vulcans marked the first time since the PacWest Championships began in 2013 that UH-Hilo won a round and advanced in the tournament. They even did so without leading scorer and 2nd team all-conference selection Carlos Ramsey Jr., who missed the contest after suffering an injury during warmups. 

UH-H blasted out of the gates to a 13-8 lead after just eight minutes and used the increased defensive focus on guard Kalique Mitchell to open up opportunities for others behind the arc and in the paint. The Vulcans extended their lead into double digits as they scored 18 of the next 21 points to take a commanding 31-13 advantage with under four minutes remaining in the half. 

The Vulcans would grow the lead as large as 24 before Biola’s Daniel Esparza drained a deep three right before the break to try and give the Eagles a little life heading into halftime trailing UH-Hilo, 39-18. 

Hilo continued to hold Biola at arms’ length for much of the 2nd half, controlling the glass while Mitchell and Charles Elzie III diced the Eagles’ defense while keeping the lead over 20 for the opening 10 minutes of the second half. 

Down 55-32, Biola geared up for one final push to get back into the game as the Eagles sliced off a 17-6 run over the next three and a half minutes to bring the contest within 12 with just over six and a half left in regulation. Once again, the Vulcans had the response on the offensive end as the two sides traded baskets for the remainer of the game en route to the University of Hawai’i-Hilo’s first PacWest Tournament victory. 

Biola was led by sophomore forward Tyus Parrish-Tillman’s double-double with 24 points and 10 rebounds while starting guard Daniel Esparza ended the day with 20 points in the loss. The Eagles were hurt by an off day from one of the conference’s best scorers as Nathan Medina managed just six points on 2-of-9 shooting against UH-H’s defense. 

Vulcans’ all-conference guard Kalique Mitchell ended the night with a near-triple double as the senior posted 23 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in the win. Elzie III followed closely behind with 21 points off the pine to push UH-Hilo into Friday’s semifinal round and a date with the defending tournament champions and current hosts of the PacWest Tournament, top-seeded Point Loma, with tip-off scheduled for 12:45 p.m. HT.  

“Proud of the team,” UH-Hilo head coach Kaniela Aiona said postgame. “The team had the right mindset coming in and preparation for this week and … it showed up right there at the beginning of the game.” 

HPU uses defense, paint dominance on Senior Night to down Chaminade

HPU uses defense, paint dominance on Senior Night to down Chaminade

HPU 1st-year head coach Jesse Nakanishi flashes a double thumbs-up to the home crowd following the Sharks’ 77-72 victory on Senior Night over Chaminade. | Photo Credit: Michael Lasquero, HSRN

HPU uses defense, paint dominance on Senior Night to down Chaminade

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED FEB 29, 2024

HONOLULU – Alright, we know where we are dancing. 

The Hawai’i Pacific University men’s basketball team finished the 2023-24 home schedule flying high, taking down island rival Chaminade on Senior Night with a 77-72 victory as forward Maj Dusanic led the Sharks in front of a packed “Shark Tank” with 18 points on 9-of-10 shooting. The victory clinched a top-three seeding for first-year head coach Jesse Nakanishi’s squad in the PacWest Tournament as HPU returns to postseason play for the first time since the 2016-17 season. 

Before tip-off, the Sharks (18-9, 13-6 PacWest) would honor the only graduating senior in guard Tyrease Terrell – a transfer from Nicholls College and a Slidell, Louisiana-native that joined the program this past offseason in hopes of helping HPU turn around their recent luck on the men’s side. The 6-foot-3 graduate student has dealt with various adversities throughout his single year in the program – including missing playing in his own Senior Night due to a head injury – but always did it with a smile on his face. He was surprised with a video message from his close friends and family along with the Noelani students he has mentored and worked with in the “Shark Bite Mentorship Program” this year on O’ahu. 

Class A7 at the school signed a ball and made a poster in support of the guard’s big night and recorded a “thank you” video for the class favorite that was tear-provoking. 

Much like the women’s game from just before, Chaminade looked as though they would play spoiler of the Sharks’ celebration of Terrell – the lone graduating member of the HPU men’s roster – as the visitors opened an early 5-point lead over the Sharks after Scott Ator’s finish inside five minutes into the action. 

The Silverswords continued the early attack as sophomore standout Ross Reeves got in on the fun with five points in under 40 seconds to put CUH ahead by eight with 13:05 remaining in the first half, 17-9. HPU settled in with a pair of Dusanic finishes under the rim before Jacob Kimura’s first 3-point make of the season brought the Sharks within two just over 11 minutes before halftime. 

Charlie Weber followed it up 66 seconds later with a triple of his own to push the hosts ahead by one before getting fouled on another 3-point try and knocking in all three freebies. Matt Van Komen got on the board for the first time a minute after, giving HPU a six-point advantage with 8:02 to play in the half. 

Dusanic added two more buckets in the following minutes, helping HPU maintain the slim lead before some late-clock chaos struck. Turnovers, cold-shooting and Chaminade’s Reeves and Isaac Amaral-Artharee catching fire with a 12-5 run to end the half sent the visitors into the locker room leading by one, 40-39. 

“We came out of the gates slow,” Nakanishi said of his team’s first half performance. “We’re one of the better defensive teams [in the PacWest conference] and we gave up 40 in the 1st half, so a little slow but at least we scored [well in the 1st half].” 

Much like their counterparts before them, HPU quickly opened the 2nd half with some hot long-range shooting as Melo Sanchez drilled a triple before Diggy Winbush got loose for eight consecutive Sharks points (2 3PTM) to push HPU back in front, 50-46. After Amaral-Artharee and Van Komen traded 2-for-2 trips to the charity stripe, Winbush added another jumper to give Hawai’i Pacific a six-point advantage just under seven minutes into the second half. 

Back-to-back 3-pointers from Chaminade’s Kelton Samore pulled the Silverswords back within two, but back-to-back dunks (including an alley-oop) from the 7-foot-4 Van Komen gave the momentum right back to the Sharks. 

Each side continued trading baskets until Wyatt Lowell’s three with 8:09 to play gave the lead back to Chaminade, 63-62. Another HPU dunk, this time by Dusanic, pushed the Sharks back ahead momentarily until Jessiya Villa got a close-range shot to drop on the next possession for CUH. 

After a 30-second timeout from Nakanishi and HPU, the Sharks got another immediate boost in the arm with 7:08 left as Kimura drained a left-corner three – his second 3-point make of the season – putting the hosts in front for good. 

Dusanic provided some breathing room with another set of back-to-back scores for the team before Lowell brought Chaminade within three once again with 4:41 to play. Van Komen layed in another close-range try and Dusanic scored his 17th and 18th points of the night on the next possession to put the Sharks back up by seven with three and a half minutes left in regulation. 

“We really tried to make them guard more than one ball screen, more than one action and that’s where teams often lose guys like [Van Komen and Dusanic] a bit,” Nakanishi said of the 2nd half dominance in the paint. 

HPU, the top statistical defense in the PacWest going into the night according to points per game allowed, flexed that defensive might as they held Chaminade to four points over the final 3:37 to close out the win on Senior Night, 77-72. 

Chaminade was led by Wyatt Lowell’s 18 points as the senior forward went 3-of-8 from distance in the loss. Ross Reeves finished with 15 points, being held to just two after halftime as the Sharks keyed in on the standout sophomore. Isaac Amaral-Artharee ended his Chaminade Silverswords career with a 10-point outing, bringing his career total to 1,732 points and placing him second all-time in program scoring history. 

Hawai’i Pacific’s Maj Dusanic paced the Sharks with 18 points and 11 rebounds, tallying his third double-double of the season as the forward shot 9-of-10 from the floor. Diggy Winbush added 17 points while tying a season-best seven assists for HPU while Melo Sanchez and Matt Van Komen each chipped in 12 points in the victory. 

The loss ends an injury-riddled season for the Chaminade Silverswords, who finished the year at 10-18 overall and just 6-14 in PacWest play. Junior guard and third-leading scorer Jamir Thomas missed the final eight games of the season for Chaminade after tallying 11.6 points per game across 20 contests. 

“It felt good to get the win but not our best performance,” Nakanishi gave as an evaluation of the night. “[Chaminade]’s a tough team. They’ve got playmakers and they’ve got shot makers.” 

Hawai’i Pacific still has one more regular season game to play, visiting the University of Hawai’i-Hilo on Saturday before preparing for a long-awaited return to the conference tournament. The Sharks will look for a season sweep over UH-Hilo, who has also clinched a spot in next week’s PacWest tournament and is battling with Biola for the rights to the fourth seed over the fifth seed. 

HPU locked themselves into the third seed ahead of next week’s PacWest Tournament in San Diego, California with the win, regardless of Saturday’s result against the University of Hawai’i-Hilo.  

“I’m very proud of our guys,” Nakanishi said of clinching the PacWest’s three-seed. “It does mean a lot that we can get in the conference tournament and not just squeeze in there … we fell short of winning a regular-season championship, but we’ve got as good chance as anybody to go win it in the [PacWest] tournament.”