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The Upset Before the Upset

By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.

On a cool December night in 1982, tiny NAIA school Chaminade University pulled off arguably the greatest upset in college basketball history, stunning Ralph Sampson and the No. 1-ranked Virginia Cavaliers. What few people remember, however, is that, just six nights earlier, the Silverswords beat another heavily favored opponent: the University of Hawaii, the state’s only Division I college basketball program.

On Dec. 17, in front of 4,119 fans at the Neal Blaisdell Arena, Chaminade beat the Rainbow Warriors, 56-47, handing UH its first-ever loss to a local small college team. Center Tony Randolph led the Silverswords with a game-high 18 points and 7 rebounds. Shooting guard Tim Dunham added 15 points, while point guard Mark Wells contributed 6 points and 8 assists.

UH guard Tony Webster paced Hawaii with 12 points, while forward Bobby Hancock added 8. Greg Hicks had 5 points and 10 rebounds for the Rainbow Warriors.

The outcome was so far-fetched that the Associated Press’ headquarters in New York initially assumed that the called-in report was a mistake. On the sports wires, they changed the item to read, “Chaminade 56, Hawaii-Hilo 47.”

Although it was a home game for the Rainbow Warriors, the majority of fans in attendance rooted loudly for the underdogs. A dejected Hancock noted afterward, “I guess people just like to see the Giants fall.”

Hawaii raced out to a 16-6 lead to start the game, but the Silverswords clamped down on defense to take a 36-32 lead into intermission. In the second half, well…

“I don’t know when we’ve scored as little as [15] points in a half,” bemoaned UH head coach Larry Little to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin’s Jim Easterwood after the game. “Give Chaminade the credit. They played well enough to win. There’s no sour grapes here. They earned it.”

Chaminade forward Richard Haenisch, who played with Barack Obama at Punahou, said that the victory was an affirmation of the team’s abilities. “We were dreaming about this game,” he said. “We knew we were just as good as they were, talent-wise. They just get all the [publicity].”

It wasn’t an aesthetically pleasing contest – Chaminade only shot .305 for the game, and Hawaii shot .302 – but for the upstart ’Swords, it was a thing of beauty.

It wasn’t, however, a perfect 10.

“I’d rate [our performance] a nine on a scale of 1 to 10,” said Chaminade forward Jason Strickland, a Kalaheo alum. “We can do better.”

Strickland’s next words would prove to be gloriously prophetic: “We’ll try for a ‘10’ [next week] against Virginia.”

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