By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.
Since the University of Hawaii joined the Big West Conference in 2012, only one school has been able to win both the men’s and women’s postseason tournament in the same year. And yes, we’re referring to the U of H.
It happened on Saturday, March 12, 2016 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. It was the day of the Big West Tournament championships, and both the Rainbow Warriors and Rainbow Wahine were competing for the conference crown and an automatic berth to their respective NCAA Tournaments.
The No. 2-seed Rainbow Wahine, with a 20-10 record, were up first. Having already beaten Long Beach State the day before in the tournament semifinals, Hawaii were now up against UC Davis, who came into the contest with a 19-12 record.
After a close opening quarter, the Rainbow Wahine blitzed the Aggies in the second period, opening up a 17-point lead. Hawaii led, 40-25, at the half. The lead swelled to 22 by the end of the third quarter, as UC Davis could not stop Ashleigh Karaitiana. The senior forward from New Zealand finished the game with a team-high 17 points, including five three-pointers. Hawaii won the game handily, 78-59.
Guard Destiny King contributed 8 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists. She joined Karaitiana on the All-Tournament Team. Karaitiana was named the tournament’s MVP.
Fourth-year head coach Laura Beeman earned her first NCAA Tournament berth after leading the program to the WNIT in each of her three previous seasons.
”Hawaii, this one’s for you guys!” Beeman exulted after the game.
Next, it was the Rainbow Warriors’ turn. Under first-year head coach Eran Ganot, Hawaii headed into the tournament with a 24-5 record and a share of the Big West’s regular-season title. They were also the tournament’s No. 1 seed. Led by Roderick Bobbitt Aaron Valdes and the Big West Player of the Year, Stefan Jankovic, UH easily dispatched of Cal State Fullerton in the quarterfinals and UC Santa Barbara in the semis. In the tournament final, the ’Bows were matched up against Long Beach State, who swept the ’Bows in the regular-season.
Unlike the Rainbow Wahine’s game with UC Davis, this one came down to the final seconds.
Both teams dug in defensively, turning the contest into a battle of wills. Neither team was able to score off the fast break. Complicating matters for Hawaii was point guard Roderick Bobbitt sitting out most of the first half with foul trouble. Young reserves such as Sheriff Drammeh and Niko Filipovich were called on to play extended minutes and helped UH go into intermission with a 31-25 lead.
Hawaii managed to increase their lead to 12 points in the second half, but the 49ers went on a 15-5 run to cut the margin to 2. LBSU’s Nick Faust buried a trey to tie the game at 56 with just under four minutes in regulation. Shortly after, however, Faust fouled out and Jankovic hit a three of his own to put Hawaii up, 61-58. After another 49er score, UH forward Mike Thomas made one of two free throws to keep his team ahead, 62-60.
LBSU had two opportunities to tie the game or take the lead, but both field goal attempts were off the mark. Bobbitt was fouled with 1.7 seconds remaining, and his two free throws sealed the 64-60 victory.
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