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.” 

Emotional day ends with elusive home win over UH-Hilo for Hawai’i Pacific men’s basketball

Emotional day ends with elusive home win over UH-Hilo for Hawai’i Pacific men’s basketball

Emotional day ends with elusive home win over UH-Hilo for Hawai’i Pacific men’s basketball

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED JAN 20, 2024

HONOLULU — It was an emotional Saturday in Mānoa. 

The Hawai’i Pacific University men’s basketball team (10-6, 5-3 PacWest) got back on track with a hard-fought, overtime win over in-state rival UH-Hilo (11-8, 5-5 PacWest), 69-66, picking up the first home win for the Sharks against the Vulcans since moving into the “Shark Tank” on the former campus of St. Francis High School on January 20. 

The game had been pinned for months as a celebration in honor of the memory of former HPU Shark and Punahou alum Kameron Steinhoff, who tragically passed away in May of 2011, with the 12th annual “Kam’s Helmets” game, handing out 150 helmets to local youth to help prevent future accident-related tragedies thanks to generous donations by T&T Tinting, Leavitt, Yamane & Soldner Group and the Hawai’i Bicycling League. In all, over 1,500 helmets have been handed out since 2011 in honor of Kam’s memory because of the Steinhoff Family’s hard work and partnership with HPU men’s basketball. 

The game became heavier for the Sharks earlier in the week when guard Nikola Milojevic had to step away from the team to be with family following the sudden passing of his father, international legend and current assistant with the Golden State Warriors’ Dejan Milojevic. The men’s program held a moment of silence before the game in honor of “Decky” as the team huddled around each other. 

With both sides down a starter (HPU’s Matt Van Komen missed his fifth consecutive game while UH-Hilo was without leading scorer Carlos Ramsey Jr.), it was the Sharks who came out of the gate quickly with the game’s first four points before the Vulcans broke the ice with a Jake Kosakowski three-pointer. Hilo would take its first lead 50 seconds later on a Jarin Edwards’ putback to make it a 5-4 game. 

The teams took turns trading the lead back and forth before HPU’s Tyrease Terrell drained a couple of triples, continuing his recent hot stretch from long range, to give the Sharks a six-point lead at the first half’s under-12-minute media timeout. After the stop in the action, the Vulcans would respond with a 9-2 run to re-take the lead, 19-18, with another Edwards’ layup after UHH guard Drew Yezbak came up with a steal of Maj Dusanic.  

The half ended just as it started, passing the lead between one another as Hilo’s Zoar Nedd got the shooting touch going from long range to help the Vulcans go to the locker rooms with a one-point advantage, 28-27. 

HPU’s Diggy Winbush and Charlie Weber, the defending player of the week in the PacWest, would help keep the Sharks in line with Hilo in the second half as leading scorer Melo Sanchez continued to struggle against the ball denial of the Vulcans by scoring nine of the first 15 points in the second half to knot the game at 42-all with 11:55 remaining in regulation.  

Hawai’i Pacific would re-take the lead two possessions later as Dusanic continued what was an excellent performance for the 6-foot-7 Slovenian forward with a layup through traffic and a block of Hilo’s Charles Elzie III on the other end. 

From there, neither side could get anything larger than a two-possession lead as the teams locked in on each end of the court, knowing the importance of a win for each’s PacWest hopes. The Sharks held a four-point advantage with 3:44 left after Dusanic got a short jumper to go and drew a charge against Hilo forward Kalique Mitchell quickly after, but a never-say-die effort from the Vulcans tied the game at 59 with 1:03 remaining. 

Winbush looked to get into the paint and couldn’t get a jumper to go through some contact before Hilo’s Elzie threw the ball out of bounds with four seconds left to keep the game knotted up heading to an overtime period.  

That’s Diggy Time. 

The junior guard was directly responsible for four instances of either tying the game up or taking the lead, including once-and-for-all with a pair of free throw makes, in the overtime period for the Sharks as HPU snapped an 11-game losing streak against the Vulcans and picked up the first win at home against their state rivals since moving from Moanalua’s gym into the “Shark Tank” ahead of the 2019-20 season. 

UH-Hilo was led by Elzie III and Nedd, each dropping 13 points in the loss for the visitors. The Vulcans will return home to take on Point Loma on Tuesday, January 23. 

Winbush led the way for Hawai’i Pacific, tallying 20 points to go along with five boards and six assists, going 5-of-6 from the charity stripe to help secure the win. Dusanic put in an efficient afternoon’s work with 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the floor while Charlie Weber posted his eighth straight double-digit outing with 11 points and four rebounds. 

The Sharks remain home for two more games, including an important matchup with Azusa Pacific as HPU has the first “Field Trip Game” with nearly 400 students from local elementary schools being bussed in for the noon game on Tuesday, January 23. 

Tune into all the action on 95.1 FM, AM 760 and streaming on hawaiisportsradio.com or catch the game afterwards on demand where most podcasts are found and under the “HPU Sharks” tab on HSRN’s website. 

HPU drops Vulcans behind balanced scoring, dominant rebounding effort

HPU drops Vulcans behind balanced scoring, dominant rebounding effort

HPU drops Vulcans behind balanced scoring, dominant rebounding effort

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED JAN 20, 2024

HONOLULU — The Hawai’i Pacific University women’s basketball team put behind an embarrassing loss to bounce back in a big way, taking down the University of Hawai’i-Hilo Vulcans inside the Shark Tank Saturday afternoon, 66-52, as eight different Sharks chipped in six or more points. 

Coming off a brutal road loss to Chaminade, 77-66, that saw HPU shoot 66% from the foul line across 33 attempts and miss close-range shot after close-range shot, Ray Alvarado’s squad was faced with an important January home game against a rival to keep PacWest playoff hopes alive. 

It was visiting Hilo that opened things hot, going up 8-3 in the first four minutes of the contest before HPU’s Haley Masaki drilled a three on a nice kick-out from Megan Jones to calm the Sharks. Hawai’i Pacific stabilized, taking a one-point lead into the second quarter as six players had at least one basket for the home squad.  

That one-point advantage would carry through into the halftime break as the teams stayed close with one another by trading short runs and good, chaos-causing defense for a 32-31 game as the teams left for the locker rooms.  

HPU opened the second half with a renewed focus, pushing the lead up to eight points at one point as Jones, Kalina Obrey and Leslie Mojica turned the heat up with sweet shooting and pesky defense. UHH’s Jeniece Harmon’s jumper with 1:16 left in the third would bring the Vulcans back within six before a Jones free throw made it 48-41 as the game entered the fourth. 

Despite increased pressure from Hilo, HPU calmly handled business over the final 10 minutes by taking care of the ball and making free throws, a stark contrast from Thursday’s loss at Chaminade, to pick up the third straight win over UH-Hilo, 66-52. 

Vulcans’ guard Keirstyn Agonias led all scorers with 16 points and nine boards in the loss, also collecting four blocks throughout the day. Do-it-all forward Kamala Kamakawiwoole struggled against the length of Jones and strength of Obrey, shooting 2-of-9 from the floor to tally just six points and three rebounds before fouling out. 

Hawai’i Pacific was led by Maskai’s 11 points (8-8 FT) as the junior handed out five assists in the win. Kalina Obrey followed closely behind with 10 points and freshman Leslie Mojica finished with 9 points and four rebounds off the bench to help propel the Sharks to victory. HPU dominated on the offensive glass, grabbing 16 offensive rebounds on the way to the win. 

HPU returns to action on Tuesday, hosting PacWest leader #12 Azusa Pacific at 2 p.m. HT. 

Tune into all the action on 95.1 FM, AM 760 and streaming on hawaiisportsradio.com or catch the game afterwards on demand where most podcasts are found and under the “HPU Sharks” tab on HSRN’s website. 

HPU to continue paying tribute after tragedy with 12th annual “Kam’s Helmets Day”

HPU to continue paying tribute after tragedy with 12th annual “Kam’s Helmets Day”

HPU to continue paying tribute after tragedy with 12th annual “Kam’s Helmets Day”

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED JAN 19, 2024

HONOLULU – The Hawai’i Pacific University Sharks men’s basketball team will return home to the “Shark Tank” on Saturday afternoon, looking to bounce back from a heart-breaking 71-68 road loss to Chaminade while hosting rival-island foe UH-Hilo inside the former St. Francis’ gym in an important matchup of PacWest rivals. 

The game will serve for a much bigger purpose than a conference matchup though as it will be the program’s 12th annual “Kam’s Helmets Day” – meant to honor the memory of former Hawai’i Pacific University men’s basketball player Kameron Steinhoff, whose legacy continues to live on through an incredibly generous day of free skateboarding and bicycle helmets getting handed out to the public. 

“This is a special day for the Sharks family as we honor Kameron Steinhoff, a former standout member of our ‘ohana who passed in a tragic skateboarding accident back in 2011,” HPU head coach Jesse Nakanishi said to HSRN ahead of the game. “Our annual event aims to save lives by encouraging the use of helmets and what better way by giving out free helmets to kids! We’re very thankful for Leavitt, Yamane and Soldner group as well as TNT Tinting for their generous sponsorship of the event in providing the helmets.” 

Steinhoff was tragically lost in May of 2011 after suffering a severe head injury in a skateboarding accident in which he was not wearing a helmet, sending shockwaves through the community as a young, bright and talented soul was lost. The 2008 Punahou alum was the Hawai’i State Player of the Year his senior season and appeared in 51 games for HPU before his heart-breaking accident took his life at the age of 21. 

The Sharks will hand out 150 helmets on Saturday, thanks in part to the generosity of Leavitt, Yamane and Soldner Group and TNT Tinting, continuing the long-standing partnership with the Steinhoff Family and Hawaii Pacific that created “Kam’s Helmets” in the first place. In all, over 1,500 helmets have been donated to those in need around the community since 2011, promoting safety while being active. 

Families are invited to bring their kids to receive a free helmet at halftime in honor of Steinhoff’s legacy and enjoy a game between inter-island & PacWest rivals when the Sharks host the Vulcans at 2 p.m. HT inside the Shark Tank – located at the old St. Francis Gymnasium on 2707 Pāmoa Road, Honolulu, Hawai’i.