Hawaii basketball: Rainbow Warriors, Wahine walk different paths to important wins in doubleheader

Justin Hemsley drove to the basket against Cal State Northridge. / Photo by Jamm Aquino, Star-Advertiser

Saturday’s basketball doubleheader was a tale of two starkly different games. Where one cruised to an easy finish, the other required every last second of the game clock. But the end results intersected where needed; with a win for Hawaii basketball.

The Hawaii women’s basketball team kicked things up with the first game of the day, wrapping up a two-game conference homestand at the Stan Sheriff Center with a convincing 68-44 win over the Long Beach State 49ers.


Despite missing it’s third-leading rebounder (Lauren Rewers), the Rainbow Wahine (11-10, 5-3 Big West Conference) dominated the boards in the victory, out-rebounding the 49ers 44-17, including 14 offensive rebounds.

Meanwhile, redshirt junior Amy Atwell and sophomore Myrrah Joseph added to their team-leading tallies with 11 and 5 rebounds respectively. Atwell now leads the team with 98 rebounds this season, with Joseph not far behind at 94. Freshman forward Kasey Neubert added to the total with six rebounds, while senior guard Julissa Tago chipped in with five.

“I think when you play a zone like they do, it gets people out of rotation, and its hard to find a body,” head coach Laura Beeman said of the team’s rebounding effort. “That’s something that Alex (assistant coach Delanian) had talked about before the game. You’re going to have windows, you’re going to have gaps if they collapse on the ball like they do, if they run out on shooters like they do. You’re going to have opportunities to go and get the ball, and these guys heard that message loud and clear, and so we were able to get a lot of boards. On the other end, I thought we did a really good job of protecting our basket. What these guys buy into and what they concentrate on, we’re very capable of doing, without a double, regardless of what it is.”

Tago continued her recent hot-scoring streak, falling just one point shy of her fifth 20 point game since January began. Tago, who entered the game fourth all-time in Wahine basketball history in 3-pointers, shot 3-for-8 from 3-point range, bringing her career total to 124. She now needs just four more triples to move into a third-place tie with Nani Cockett (1998, 2000-01).

“I just want to get a Big West Championship. I want to be in the record books for that. I’m focusing on that,” Tago said of her 3-point standing.

Julissa Tago put up a shot against Long Beach State. / Photo by Jamm Aquino, Star-Advertiser

Tago’s 3-pointers were part of 12 overall for the Wahine, who knocked down each of their first four attempts from deep to start the game. After two early Beach buckets, Tago, junior forward Jadynn Alexander, and freshman guard Nae Nae Calhoun each tallied a triple as the Wahine took an early 9-4 lead. That turned out to be the only lead change of the game, and the only one the team needed.

The lead continued to grow from there, eventually swelling to a high of 26 in the fourth quarter. Atwell and Alexander joined Tago with double-digit scoring performances, with 16 and 11 respectively.

TTHE SECOND GAME of the day, an 80-75 Hawaii men’s basketball win over Cal State Northridge, was not quite so straightforward.

With 11 minutes still on the clock, the game was all but over. The CSUN Matadors had out-hustled Hawaii all game long, and yet another acrobatic Lamine Diane bucket pushed their lead to 17. The story was all but written, with a few blank spaces left for final stats. The headline: “Hawaii runs out of gas after last week’s photo finish.”

Then something seemed to change. As if a light was switched on, the Rainbow Warriors (14-6, 5-1 BWC) began playing with a fervor they had not shown all game. Senior forward Eddie Stansberry knocked down a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 14, followed quickly by a free throw after a CSUN flopping call. Freshman Justin Webster then knocked down a triple of his own, and the fans at the Stan Sheriff Center began to rise.

Back-to-back layups from sophomore center Dawson Carper cut the lead down to single digits for the first time since the second half began, and Hawaii fans settled in for another thrilling finish.

CSUN quickly responded with three points on a free throw and a Diane layup, cruelly staying just out of the ‘Bows’ reach. But Hawaii kept fighting. With all five starters chipping in with big contributions, the Rainbow Warriors whittled the Matadors’ lead to just a single point with 2:17 minutes left in the game.

Senior Zigmars Raimo was one of three ‘Bows to finish with a team-leading four rebounds. His fourth and final rebound proved to be crucial, as he grabbed an offensive rebound with less than a minute to go. He wouldn’t waste the second-chance opportunity, laying the ball into the basket to give the ‘Bows their first lead since the opening minutes of the game.

Webster, who has not looked like a freshman since taking over in the starting lineup for the injured Samuta Avea, found the ball in his hands with a seemingly wide-open lane to the basket with the clock reading 13 seconds. Without hesitation, he sprinted down the court. A lesser player might have gone for the “easy” layup, but Webster, with awareness unbefitting of a true freshman, sensed the looming pressure of Diane charging after him. Webster wisely chose to forego the layup, instead dribbling back out to the 3-point line, taking precious seconds off the game clock. His decision was rewarded after he was intentionally fouled, knocking down both free throws to all but ice the game.

“At first I was going for the layup, then I see (Diane) just hauling. It’s those moments you just look back and be smart with it,” Webster said of the play.

Sure enough, on the very next possession, Diane committed a traveling turnover, before sophomore Justin Hemsley threw down an emphatic dunk to cap off the dramatic 17-point comeback.

“It was a great moment. Not healthy for any of us,” head coach Eran Ganot joked about the heart-pounding finish. “I speak on behalf of our entire program, I can’t thank our crowd enough. Can’t thank the Hawaii fanbase enough. Being here for as long as I’ve been, I know how special this crowd is, and how special the people in Hawaii are. Hawaii fans appreciate work, they appreciate team, and they recognize when their programs need a boost. We’re going through quite a bit of adversity. They are 100% a factor, they have always been a factor.”

The ‘Bows victory keeps them in contention for the Big West title. Hawaii remains just a half-game behind conference leader UC Irvine, which earlier today took down UC Riverside to hold on to its lead. The Anteaters handed the ‘Bows their only conference loss earlier in the season. Hawaii will have another shot at Irvine, facing them at the Stan Sheriff Center on Feb. 15 after next week’s road trip to UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly and a home game against Long Beach State.


  1. A-House February 3, 2020 8:08 am

    being a 49er fan, I am disappointed by the loss, but hats off to the Chiefs who were able to score 3 TDs within a 5 1/2 minute span with the help of some very timely “no calls” for obvious holding where Chief’s OL grab and tackle 49er DL and threw them to the ground in front of a “ref” — several led to making 1st downs and keeping drives alive

    also, some very timely ‘ no-call ‘ off-side by the Chief’s DL and the commentators, who normally make no comment, did so by saying those were very obvious off-side which help stall the Niners offense

    what will the next season bring, ” I wonder “?

  2. A-House February 3, 2020 8:11 am

    is there a pattern in the new HC hiring of his staff? — hmm, sounds like Norm Chow’s selection of staff — coaches with very little experience in offense and defense

    shucks, didn’t I say I would hold off to 4 games? yes, but I also said it may be sooner!

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