Phillips sparks Rainbow Wahine in comeback win

Rainbow Wahine coach Laura Beeman provided direction during UH's exhibition game against Hawaii Pacific University on Wednesday at SimpliFi Arena, Stan Sheriff Center. Honolulu Star-Advertiser photos by George F. Lee.

Daejah Phillips tapped into a simple source of energy in the Rainbow Wahine basketball team’s exhibition win over Hawaii Pacific on Wednesday.
“I didn’t want to lose to them again,” Phillips said.
With the Rainbow Wahine trailing the Sharks 44-38 at halftime, the memory of her college debut against the Sharks last December helped fuel Phillips in a second-half surge that helped power UH’s 86-76 comeback win at SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center.
Back in December, Phillips posted 11 points and five rebounds in UH’s 82-74 loss to HPU to open an abbreviated freshman season with the Rainbow Wahine. She nearly matched those numbers in the second half of Wednesday’s rematch with the Sharks and finished with 16 points and 15 rebounds in the Wahine victory.
“Offensively we were very rushed in the first half, just didn’t hunt down great shots,” UH coach Laura Beeman said. “Then in the second half we had some people who turned it up a notch and didn’t want a repeat of last year.”
After the HPU loss, Phillips went on to earn the Big West Sixth Player of the Year award with averages of 9.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game as the Wahine went 7-6 in conference play and closed the season in the Big West tournament semifinals.
Phillips was part of the UH’s starting five on Wednesday and had five points and seven boards in the first quarter. But she also picked up two fouls and sat out the second period as HPU got hot from 3-point range to outscore UH 28-14 to take the six-point lead into the break.

Daejah Phillips was the Big West Sixth Player of the Year last season.

The Wahine caught and passed the Sharks in a 26-16 third quarter and pulled away in the fourth. Phillips contributed 11 points and eight rebounds after the break and provided a spark on both ends of the floor. She added a steal and a block.
“Now there’s a standard for rebounding, defensive intensity and just beautiful decision making,” Beeman said.
After HPU cut UH’s lead to 76-70 with 3:07 left on Tavia Rowell’s sixth 3-pointer of the night, Phillips grabbed an offensive rebound, scored on the putback and drew a foul. She hit the ensuing free throw and the Wahine led by as least eight the rest of the way.
Phillips went 11-for-13 from the free-throw line as the Wahine attacked the basket throughout the game and hit 37 of 44 attempts from the line.
UH had a relatively quiet night from 3-point range, making three of 16 attempts, but still shot 45% from the field.
“We need to attack, we’re a guard-heavy team,” Beeman said. “Once we attack and defenses collapse then we can utilize our shooters.”
Senior Amy Atwell led the Wahine with 23 points and point guard Nae Nae Calhoun added 11 in her first game back after missing all but one game last season due to a knee injury.
Calhoun split time with Kelsie Imai, who started most of last season with Calhoun sidelined. Imai finished with six points and two assists.
Beeman also noted the defensive play of freshman forward Nnenna Orji, who picked up HPU guard Amy Baum at times. Freshman Jacque David contributed seven points and four rebounds in her 16 minutes off the bench. Olivia Davies finished with eight points and McKenna Haire, a transfer from Princeton, also added eight points.
“To have multiple people contribute is going to make us a very hard scout,” Beeman said.
The Wahine open the regular season on Tuesday at San Diego and face USC two nights later in Los Angeles.