A few former Hawaii women’s basketball teammates have reunited on another island.
Four-year Rainbow Wahine players Sarah Toeaina and Lahni and Leah Salanoa are teammates competing for American Samoa in the 2019 Pacific Games, an Olympic-style multi-sport competition between island nations and territories of Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia held every four years. This year it is the 16th edition of the games and is being hosted by Western Samoa.
Toeaina and the Salanoas are from the U.S. mainland but share some Samoan ancestry. They overlapped three seasons at UH (including the Big West championship season of 2015-16) and last played together at UH in 2017-18, Toeaina’s final season. The Salanoas recently wrapped up their four-year UH careers with a WNIT appearance and finished as two of the program’s most prolific 3-point shooters.
They opened competition against Tahiti on Monday in Afia (Tuesday in Samoa, which is just on the other side of the International Date Line). Toeaina starred in American Samoa’s 85-61 win, pouring in a game-high 22 points in 22 minutes on 8-for-12 shooting. Lahni Salanoa added 11 points, including a pair of triples, and Leah scored a basket amid foul trouble.
Toeaina, who was recently named MVP of the Women’s British Basketball League in her first pro season, messaged Hawaii Warrior World before the game: “As soon as I got the message about this once in a lifetime opportunity I knew I couldn’t turn it down. I was so excited to share the news with my parents and although they couldn’t make the trip I know they’re here in spirit. Visiting American & Western Samoa I was able to see where my grandparents were raised and how beautiful the island is, what a humbling experience. On top of that, I’m given another opportunity to play with my collegiate teammates and I know that hardly happens for any college graduate. As soon as I saw the twins it instantly felt like the good old times and I’m not taking being their teammate again lightly. We’re here on a business trip and to represent American Samoa is an absolute blessing, our team has worked hard and we can’t wait to leave everything on the court for the name on our jerseys.”
Samoa’s remaining pool play schedule is:
>> Guam, Wednesday 5:30 p.m. HST (4:30 p.m. Thursday in Samoa)
>> Papua New Guinea, Friday 5:30 p.m. HST (4:30 p.m. Saturday)
From there, they’ll be slotted in bracketed play July 15-17.
UH coach Laura Beeman, who was in Kentucky on a recruiting trip for Wahine classes of 2020 and beyond, said in a phone interview of her former players, “I just think it’s great for those young ladies to go to Samoa and see their culture. Visit the islands and really kind of get in touch with who they are. … I know they were incredibly excited to go and to represent the University of Hawaii and themselves. They were really, really excited. For our program, its great. It’s an honor to be a part of something like that. I know they’re going to represent Hawaii very, very well.”