Behind three former Hawaii Rainbow Wahine, American Samoa ended the 2019 Pacific Games the same way it started competition — by winning with authority.
Sarah Toeaina poured in 29 points on 9-for-14 shooting and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead her adopted team to a 74-53 win over Fiji on Wednesday night in Samoa (Tuesday in Hawaii). Lahni and Leah Salanoa added a combined 21 points and nine rebounds for the U.S. territory.
American Samoa (5-0) swept through the Olympic-style competition between Pacific island nations and territories, winning by an average margin of 29.4 points in five games. All but one was decided by double figures — the exception an 85-76 win over Guam in the group stage.
The final was a tight game for a time, as Fiji outscored American Samoa 15-6 in the second quarter to get within 30-28 at halftime. But Toeaina scored a couple of quick baskets coming out of the break and Leah Salanoa added a pair of hoops to make it 40-30. It got back within six before American Samoa put together a dominant fourth behind Toeaina’s 12 points in the period.
Toeaina messaged Hawaii Warrior World afterward: “God is so good!! This experience has definitely been one for the books, I wouldn’t trade anything for the new teammates and relationships I’ve made. This group is amazing, our bond and connection started as soon as we met each other. Every single one of them helped us win this Gold, and to my Salanoa twins I am so thankful to play alongside them again. We did this not only for Hawaii, our families, but also American Samoa!! We are truly blessed beyond measures!”
Toeaina averaged 21.2 points per game (third in the competition) on 57.6 percent shooting from the field (first among qualified players) with 8.2 rebounds (eighth).
The Salanoas were two of the most prolific 3-point shooters in Wahine history. In the five Pacific Games contests, Lahni was 4-for-8 and Leah 9-for-25, ranking among the top markswomen in the field.
UPDATE: In case you missed it, Waiakea High guard Kelsie Imai has committed to play for the Rainbow Wahine for the 2020-21 season.
The last Big Island native to play for the program was Pua Kailiawa in Laura Beeman’s first couple of years in Manoa. Her senior year was 2013-14.