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UPDATED: Warriors score a Classic championship win over Troy, 72-67

Showing an encouraging “grit-and-bear-it” attitude for the second straight night against another 2017 NCAA Tournament-qualifying opponent, Hawai’i staved off Troy in overtime, 72-67, Sunday to capture the 53rd Annual Outrigger Resorts Rainbow Classic championship.

A Stan Sheriff Center crowd of about 5,078 (tickets issued) watched Sheriff Drammeh score 15 points, grab five rebounds and make five assists off the bench and Gibson Johnson and Jack Purchase each add 12 points and eight rebounds as the Warriors improved to 3-0; Troy fell to 1-2.

Brocke Stepteau added 10 points off the bench, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:44 remaining in OT.

“It felt real good to win a championship — that was our first goal for this season, to win the Rainbow (Classic), and we did that,” said Stepteau, who added three rebounds, one assist and one steal in 32 minutes played. “And the way we did was kind of like yesterday (a tough 81-78 victory over North Dakota), just a hard-fought game down the stretch. You’ve got to win games like that to be considered a good team, so I’m glad we were able to do that in a championship game.”

After Jordon Varnado drained a 27-foot 3-pointer from way past the top of the key with three seconds left in regulation to tie the score at 65-65 and stun the SSC crowd, Stepteau’s 3-poointer from the top of the key later put UH ahead, 65-62, with 2:44 remaining in OT. After the teams traded made and missed free throws for the next couple of minutes, Troy had a chance to tie it while down 70-67 with 25 seconds left, but the Warriors regained possession when Purchase forced a held ball. Drammeh was then fouled with 14.8 ticks showing on the clock, and sank both free throws of a double bonus to give Hawai’i some breathing room at 72-67.

“That’s a big play, the winning play,” Drammeh said of Purchase’s diving for the loose ball. “That’s building championship habits — we gotta go for every loose ball, every time.”

Stepteau agreed.

“That was as big a play as there was in the game,” he said.

Vanardo then shot an airball from 24 feet on Troy’s next possession, and after a loose ball rebound gave the Trojans another chance, Kevin Baker missed a 3-point attempt and the Warriors’ Leland Green secured the rebound with two seconds remaining to seal the victory.

“A great week for us: a great three games in four days, really proud of our group … they deserved it,” UH coach Eran Ganot said. “I love how we share the ball, and I think we’ll continue to do that, it makes us a tough cover. But we’re not going to make any stand unless we stay with what we say is our foundation, which is defend and rebound. And today, against a really good team with a lot of potent threats, we held them under 35 (percent) from the field and we won the boards by 11. So I think it starts there. The sharing the ball, I think that’s the unselfish nature of our team, and I’m very proud of them for having this moment tonight.”

Troy jumped out to a 12-7 start in the game’s first five minutes, but Stepteau’s 3-pointer with 14:11 remaining in the half ignited a 14-8 run capped by Purchase’s two free throws which put the Warriors ahead, 21-20, at the eight-minute mark. Stepteau later ended the half with a three-point play to push the Hawai’i’s lead to 36-28 at the break.

The Warriors later led by as much as 47-32 after Drammeh’s 3-pointer from the left wing with 15:24 left in the game, but the Trojans chipped away and eventually closed the gap to 61-59 on Person’s two free throws which capped a 12-2 run with 21.8 seconds remaining. Drew Buggs then made one of two free throws to put the Warriors up, 62-59, one second later, but Varnado then drained a 27-foot 3-pointer from well beyond the top of the key to tie it at 62-62 with three ticks left.

Stepteau’s running 30-footer at the buzzer was just off the mark, forcing overtime.

“What they were doing with their (full-court) press was a little different from what we were doing in practice, or what we’re used to, so we struggled with it a little bit and had a few turnovers,” Stepteau said, when asked about Troy’s late rally. “But Sheriff did a good job helping me or Drew or Lee out by coming to the middle and shortening the passes. We figured it out when we needed it the most, (but) it’s definitely something we’ve got to work on, our press break.”

Ganot cited other factors.

“One, credit Troy, I think last night, too with North Dakota, you’ve got two teams that are used to winning, and they’re gonna keep fighting,” Ganot said. “Two, we gotta do a better job in those situations. It was a combination of missed free throws, unforced turnovers against press, and then for the first time in late game … we let Person get loose for back-to-back 3’s, we had a lapse there. So a combination of those things, good teams are going to take advantage of, and they did.”

Despite the stunning finish to regulation, Ganot said he was encouraged by how quickly his team regrouped during the short break prior to overtime.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am, when you get hit with something like that to end regulation, it shows great maturity and poise and leadership when your team bounces back,” Ganot said. “It’s such a great feeling when you go in the huddle and you know your guys are locked in. You walk into the huddle after that kind of devastating shot, and the look, the belief, was rock solid. The tightness of our crew, our guys feed off each other. Human nature is to let down in those situations, but we defended real well in overtime, and they scored five points. We just continued to get stops.

“I think at the end of the day, we played right, we stuck together, we hung in there. This is a great step for us moving forward.”

Mike Thomas, who scored a career-high 29 points against North Dakota on Sunday, contributed eight points and five rebounds. He was named the Rainbow Classic Most Outstanding Player, and was joined on the All-Tournament Team by teammates Purchase and Johnson.

The Rainbow Classic started in 1964, and switched from an eight-team format to its current four-team, round-robin format in 2009. The Warriors have won the tournament championship 15 times, including four times in the four-team format.

Hawai’i’s next game will be on November 24 against Nevada at the Stan Sheriff Center.

CLICK HERE to view boxscore

(Game photos courtesy Brandon Flores / www.brandonfloresphotography.com)

CLICK HERE to view more photos

Outrigger Resorts Rainbow Classic
Monday’s Results

North Dakota 80, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 71
Hawai’i 72, Troy 67

Final standings
Hawai’i 3-0
North Dakota 2-1
Troy 1-2
Arkansas-Pine Bluff 0-3

All-Tournament Team
Geno Crandall, North Dakota
Gibson Johnson, Hawai’i
Martaveous McKnight, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Jack Purchase, Hawai’i
Jordon Varnado, Troy
Most Outstanding Player: Mike Thomas, Hawai’i

7 Comments

  1. Great start to the season. Two quick positives I took away from this one. (1) Loved the heart and effort Purchase showed in OT. He really helped put this one away with his effort. (2) Sheriff is the guy I want on the free throw line at the end of the game, he’s got an unshakeable confidence about him.

  2. This team looks better than I thought they would be for this time of the year. If they keep improving and the main guys stay healthy, this is a definite contender for Big West champs!

    Buggs is not quite ready for prime time yet, so looks like him and Brocke have to be the combo point guard this year.

  3. Team is growing with each game. From the first scrimmage they had good chemistry. Just a matter of time before they will be performing at a high level of efficiency. No great athletes, but all great team players. They will overcome their press and free throw problems. Outside shooting remains a concern down the road. Excellent passing team.

  4. Yes,the press gave UH problems.
    I’d like to see Avea in there playing.

  5. Jack leads the team with 16 assists, has only 2 turnovers.
    Brocke has a .667 FG Pct.
    Sheriff has a .429 3FG Pct. and 1.000 FT Pct
    Mike, Gibson and Jack all have 7 rebounds per game average, so far.

  6. One of the neat thinks at the beginning of each season is to see the new players but especially the improvement the returning players have made to their game. Jack Purchase, always a great passer and three point shooter, has added that jumper at the elbows which is going to be big as well as a bigger presents on the boards. Sheriff, compared to his freshman and much of his sophomore year, is being much more selective with his shoots and I believe that will continue. He has made great progress in all areas of his game. I could go down others on the team but would rather send props to Coach Ganot for focusing on bringing in Freshman talent that we will be able to see develop and contribute over their four years at UH. Building from within and not rebuilding every year as we have done in the past with two year players come and going is refreshing. Looking forward to this year and beyound.

  7. Nice comments by anderpops. I hope someone will be able to document all this by posting complete games throughout the season. Someone who has access should post them similar to the great coverage of the summer leagues by click2ED. Documenting by posting complete games would be the model for building a greater following. Twenty years from now, you might say yourself, “do you remember that game in 2017-2018 where Drammeh stole the ball with 5 seconds left, passed it up to …, and …, and ….”. “Let’s check it out!” “So glad they’ve documented complete game since that season!”

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