Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

UPDATED: Warriors’ buzzer-beater tops SMU, 58-57, for first Diamond Head Classic championship

If you keep wishing – and playing – hard enough, Christmas wishes do come true. The University of Hawai’i basketball team can now attest to that.

After 13 years of wishing for a Christmas Day championship of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, the Rainbow Warriors finally got it, beating SMU, 58-57, in one of the most dramatic finishes in recent program history.

JoVon McClanahan hit a running 3-pointer with 0.9 seconds remaining to give Hawai’i its first ever Diamond Head Classic championship. The title game of the three-day, eight-team tournament was played before a SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center crowd of 3,331 that provided a frenzied ovation for several minutes after the historic win.

“It’s huge,” said McClanahan, who only scored two points in the game prior to his winning shot. “I’m just glad that we’re in the record books. Our team is going to go down as one of the teams that won the Diamond Head Classic, and the first one (from Hawai’i).”

Hawai’i trailed by as many as 12 points in the second half, and overcame two unforced turnovers in the final 12 seconds before setting up McClanahan’s final shot.

“It’s got to be one of the biggest shots, obviously, in our program’s history, but I think it’s one of the biggest shots you’ll see (anywhere), when you put that all into context,” Hawai’I head coach Eran Ganot said. “ESPN, Christmas Day, two good teams fighting like they had. Our guys’ resolve to chip away and give themselves a chance. We had to navigate through some unique adversity during the game … this is a great moment and I’m really proud.”

Hawai’i, which had never previously reached the championship game of the Diamond Head Classic since its inception in 2009, improved to 9-3. SMU, which upset Iona and Utah State to reach the title game, dropped to 5-8.

Bernardo da Silva and Beon Riley led the Warriors with 13 points each. Da Silva scored 11 of his points and grabbed all five of his rebounds in the crucial second half. He was limited to six minutes in the first half due to foul trouble. Riley, a 6-foot-6 sophomore, tied his career high with 13 points in 26 minutes off the bench.

Noel Coleman added nine points – all in the final eight minutes of the game – for the Warriors. Reserve center Mor Seck – a 7-1 freshman – was also huge in numerous ways, contributing nine points and six rebounds in 13 reserve minutes for the best game of his young career.

“We’re a clutch team and we have a lot of clutch players,” Ganot said. “JoVon’s belief is incredible and we feed off it.”

The dramatic finish was set up by miscues from both teams. Hawai’i had possession of the ball trailing 57-55 with 31 seconds remaining, but Coleman lost control of the ball while driving to the basket with 11.6 seconds remaining.

SMU’s Zhuric Phelps then missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw, but UH’s Samuta Avea lost control of the rebound. SMU’s Samuell Williamson then missed the front end of another one-and-one free throw, and UH’s Kamaka Hepa gathered the rebound and called a timeout with 4.8 seconds remaining.

McClanahan received the inbounds pass and dribbled to the top of the 3-point line and shot it from about 25 feet away without any hesitation. McClanahan said he told assistant coach John Montgomery that he was going to take the final shot.

“If he gave me a look I’m going to shoot this game winner,” McClanahan said he told Montgomery. “It went in. It was a big shot and (SMU) gave me a great look, too. I was so surprised that he gave me a great look.”

Minutes earlier, McClanahan kept the Warriors within striking distance with his one-on-one defense when he forced SMU’s Phelps into a shot-clock violation.

“He’s an insanely good defender, all the time,” Ganot said of McClanahan. “He’s an incredible competitor. I think over the years, watch his growth … he’s playing heavy minutes and he’s still competing. You talk about the (game-winning) 3, but how about his stop to force the shot-clock violation? This is a guy who is as good a competitor as I’ve been around. He’s a bulldog.”

McClanahan, a 5-10 junior, scored a career-high 17 points in a first round win over Pepperdine, then followed with 16 points in a semifinal victory over Washington State. After his Christmas Day heroics, he was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. He is the first Hawai’i player to earn the MOP trophy for the Diamond Head Classic.

Coleman joined McClanahan on the All-Tournament team.

Hawai’i struggled early in the game, scoring just six points in the opening nine minutes. The Warriors took a brief 18-15 lead in the first half, but the Mustangs closed the first half with a 16-4 surge in the final five minutes to take a 31-22 lead at intermission.

SMU increased its lead to 38-26 with 16:33 remaining in the second half, but the Warriors chipped away at that lead the rest of the way. McClanahan’s winning shot represented Hawai’i’s only lead of the second half, and it triggered a joyous celebration with several fans running on to the court.

After a lengthy delay clearing the court and reviewing replays of McClanahan’s final shot, the referees ruled that SMU committed a foul on the play with 0.9 seconds remaining.

McClanahan missed the awarded free throw, and SMU’s desperation heave at the final horn was way off target, allowing the official celebration to commence.

After the game, Ganot noted that reserves Riley, Seck and walk-on Kody Williams played significant roles in the victory, Williams, who played a total of 11 minutes in the previous 11 games, received 12 minutes of action due to foul trouble and injuries to other players. He did not score, but was “a defensive monster” according to Ganot. Seck ignited the crowd numerous times with two dunks and two blocked shots.

Hawai’i entered the game ranked among the national leaders for 3-point defense, and SMU was limited to 4-for-13 shooting from 3-point range.

After shooting 24 percent (6 for 25) from the field in the first half, the Warriors shot 55.6 percent (15 for 27) in the second half and finished at 40.4 percent (21 for 52) for the game. SMU shot 43.6 percent (24 for 55) from the field.

Hawai’i also went 12 for 16 on free throws to SMU’s 5 for 9. Zhuric Phelps led the Mustangs with 20 points, and Zach Nutall added 15.

The Warriors will not have much time to celebrate the historic victory, as Big West Conference play begins this week. Hawai’i will host UC Davis on Thursday, then Cal Poly on Saturday.

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Sunday’s Results
7th Place: Seattle 85, George Washington 67
5th Place: Iona 76, Pepperdine 66
3rd Place: Utah State 82, Washington State 73
Championship: Hawai’i 58, SMU 57

All-Tournament Team
Steven Ashworth, Utah State
Noel Coleman, Hawai’i
Nelly Joseph Junior, Iona
Zhuric Phelps, SMU
Most Outstanding Player: JoVon McClanahan, Hawai’i
Leading scorer: Maxwell Lewis, Pepperdine, 68 points


  1. Dayton and Wes, can’t beat warrior insider for the coverage and highlights. Thanks

  2. Awesomeness! Go Bows!!!

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