Rainbow Wahine basketball: Turning the corner

Forward Makenna Woodfolk and Hawaii came out on the right end of a scuffle with Long Beach State on Saturday. / Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell, Star-Advertiser

UPDATE: Well, umm, the rosy outlook has changed a little bit. Here’s today’s breaking news on leading scorer and rebounder Makenna Woodfolk leaving the program due to her pregnancy.

Coming up on the most important time of the season, the Hawaii women’s basketball team feels like it’s found something. Something good.

UH (11-13, 7-4) is tied for second place in the Big West with five games remaining before the Big West tournament. Because of the benefit of byes in the women’s bracket — a single bye for third or fourth place and a double bye for first or second — the Rainbow Wahine are in remarkably better standing than they were in conference play the last two years, when they finished 7-9 and 5-11 and had to play on the opening day.

This year’s team, it seemed, had to get worse before it could get better. It started 1-7 overall. Then, even after beating first-place UC Davis, UH was 1-2 in conference play coming off its 29-point game against Cal State Northridge.

“What I said to the girls in our postgame talk (Saturday) was, ‘Failure doesn’t define you. Failure refines you,’ ” coach Laura Beeman said after a 63-49 win over Long Beach State. “And early on, we were failing. We were losing. It was getting us down. We were playing frustrated. We did not have a next-play mentality. And I think over these last few weeks, those failures, and I use that lightly because losing is not failing, but those failures refined this team to be who they are today. And I think we need to continue to be refined.”

Guard Courtney Middap emerged as a more consistent scorer last week (14 and 17 points) and forward Kenna Woodfolk busted out of a recent scoring slump. One of the better 3-point-shooting teams in the Big West has now been defending and rebounding at a better level, too.

The Wahine have won four of their last five. They for three straight on Thursday at home against UC Irvine. That might not sound all too remarkable, but consider this: The last time they won three straight conference games was late in the 2016-17 season.

“I feel very happy. It’s my last year. We haven’t been this, I’ll say successful, in conference in a long time. Since my freshman year,” senior wing Leah Salanoa. “It’s fun. I love playing with these girls. And we’re about to have a good time.”

A turning point may have come at halftime of the LBSU game. UH, which had lost by 16 points at LBSU the previous Saturday, was threatening to revert to its bad habit of inconsistency coming off a 23-point win over UC Santa Barbara three days prior. The Wahine led just 24-23 at the break.

“We talked about growth,” Beeman said. “We talked about, here’s the time right now where we’re struggling the same way we did at Long Beach. It’s time to grow now. We can’t stay where we are, where we were.”

UH responded by closing out the game about as effectively as it has all season, dominating the last five minutes.

“Growing like that this time if year is what you want to do, because you want to be playing your best basketball,” Beeman said.


  1. Kahuna February 19, 2019 7:04 pm

    It will be a great time for Amy, Lahni and Myrrah to step up and pick up the slacks. If each can contribute 8ppg and 4rpg, UH should be in good shape.

    UH have had good games in the past when McKenna was in foul troubles so it’s not a lost cause.

  2. Matt February 19, 2019 8:00 pm

    As soon as I saw the news about that, now it’s making me worry. With Coach B caught inbetween the crossfire, now she has to replace the following after this season’s end (If she stays for another season):

    Centers: 6’3″ Lauren Donohue and Mackenzie Clinch Hoycard
    Forwards: 6’2″ Makenna Woodfolk, 5’11” Lahni Salanoa, 5’10” Leah Salanoa
    Guards: 5’9″ Rachel Odumu and 5’8″ Tiare “Tia” Kanoa

    Let’s take a look at where her recruiting stands and how the list holds:

    Centers: NONE
    Forwards: 5’10” Makayla Edwards (Also for guard), 6’1″ Kasey Neubert, 6’2″ Barbara Rangel
    Guards: 5’5″ Naenae Calhoun, 5’9″ Olivia Davies

    There’s no centers recruited, and with Rewers as their only big post, somebody has to step up big for this team if they’re going to keep their BWC tournament seeding alive. Without a backup center, there’s going to be some issues with depth on offense and defense that will be missed. And seeing how much Megan Huff’s departure affected this program, it’s taking a huge toll for sure. The amount of stress Coach B’s dealing with in terms of height loss is starting to show. I think the big issue with the WBB program is having to keep height on their team, whereas the WVB is having troubles with recruiting height on their team. It didn’t help especially early on that injuries became more of a snake-bit situation with the program. I’m hoping that this program will find a way to recover after this season’s end.

  3. cappie the dog February 19, 2019 8:14 pm

    Good luck to you, Makenna Woodfolk, you will be missed.

    If that was the last game I saw you play on Saturday, you went out on a high note.

  4. cappie the dog February 19, 2019 8:18 pm

    Lamarria Jackson is a guard. If she had height, you could burn her redshirt year. But she is a guard. It would be pointless.

    Amy Atwell can take Woodfolk’s spot. She gets a lot of her points around the basket.

    Julissa Tago. She is the determining factor if Hawaii’s season can be salvaged.

  5. Kahuna February 19, 2019 9:20 pm

    I don’t think in today’s game you need a true center. If you can play two forwards that can shoot from the outside and occasionally dribble drive, you can have success.

    I would much rather have a 6-1/6-2 girl with athleticism and mobility then to have a 6-4 who is not very mobile. Those 2 inches in height advantage is not going to make a difference if you cannot move your feet.

    We have had many tall girls in the past but have not worked out very welll for us. Darden, Clinch Holdcard, Donohue and now Rewers. None of them have become major contributors.

    It’s time we get kids that are athletic. This coming class look like it fit that bill.

  6. A-House February 20, 2019 6:30 am

    prior Wahine BB player had a child and came back to make major contributions

    hope Woodfolk can do the same

  7. cappie the dog February 20, 2019 12:06 pm

    The jury is still out on Lauren Rewers. She was scoreless in her first seven games. I see improvement. I hope the team rallies around this unexpected announcement, and find another gear. So would this be the starting lineup, Kahuna? Please respond with your starting lineup.

    G-Tia Kanoa
    G-Julissa Tago
    F-Amy Atwell
    F-Courtney Middap
    F-Jadynn Alexander

    Lucky for the coach, Rachel Odumu is a team player and didn’t quit. You have a last player on the bench who happens to be the most athletic player on the team. Hawaii will be okay. I have complete faith in Laura Beeman and the coaching staff.

  8. islandman February 20, 2019 1:18 pm

    7. Leah Salanoa should be in the starting lineup as she has been for the whole season..
    Rangel is a center type for next season But looks like she has to sometimes get back down court faster.

  9. islandman February 20, 2019 1:26 pm

    6 Rewers has shown an ability to score a bunch at times and fight for rebounds.

  10. kahuna February 20, 2019 4:32 pm

    Leah Salanoa..F
    Lahni Salanoa..F
    Amy Atwell …F

    I like this lineup because everyone here have the ability to shoot the 3pters. With Wookfolk gone, our inside game will not be our strong suit. We are going to have to dribble drive, shoot short/midrange jumpers or rely on the trey.

    The only player I feel that can go inside with any success would be Myrrah Joseph but I don’t think she will start.

  11. kahuna February 20, 2019 4:43 pm

    Regarding a former player having a child and coming back, the situation with that player and Woodfolk is not the same. That other player had family support here in Hawaii so she is able to have her family take care of the kid while she attend school and play basketball.

    Mckenna is from Washington state. Her family is there. It would be extremely tough for her to leave her child in WA while attend school and play basketball in Hawaii. Moving the family here just so she can play ball for one more year doesn’t sound like a good use of money. I’m sure Beeman would honor her scholarship if Mckenna decides to finish school at UH and not play basketball.

    Its already tough to raise a kid and go to school. It’s even tougher to raise a kid, go to school and play D1 level ball….especially if that player is from out of state.

  12. cappie the dog February 20, 2019 7:26 pm

    islandman- Yeah. What the hell am I thinking? Leah Salanoa over Jadynn Alexander.

  13. cappie the dog February 20, 2019 7:29 pm

    kahuna- Myrrah Joseph is the only player who showed up on the road at Long Beach State. And she followed that breakout performance with two decent games at home. Super-funky free-throw delivery.

    Samantha Reier is constantly talking to her teammates. Excellent bench presence. The best I’ve seen in years. There are seasons in which everybody is dead quiet. Her return is key.

  14. islandman February 21, 2019 6:37 am

    11 and 13. Eye opener thoughts.
    2. Kasey is a center type for next season. She scores mostly inside.

  15. Nomu1001 February 21, 2019 2:46 pm

    Should Reiser start taking more shots and go to the basket whenever she can?

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