Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

BONUS COVERAGE: Rainbow Wahine repeat as Big West champs

The University of Hawai’i women’s basketball pulled off the improbable, rallying from a 15-point deficit in the second half to defeat UC Santa Barbara, 61-59, in the championship game of the Hercules Tires Big West Conference Championship Tournament on Saturday.

Photo courtesy Brandon Flores / www.brandonfloresphotography.com

A crowd of 1,216 – most of them cheering for Hawai’i – at the Dollar Loan Center in Henderson, Nev., watched the Rainbow Wahine win the conference tournament for the second consecutive season. Hawai’i, which improved to 18-14 overall, will find out its seed and opponent for the 2023 NCAA Tournament on Sunday.

The game winner came in the form of Daejah Phillips completing a three-point play with 3.4 seconds remaining. Freshman Imani Perez had the ball on the wing, and passed it to Phillips cutting down the lane for the winning basket. Phillips was fouled on the play and made the ensuing free throw.

“We work that play that we ran at the end of the game every day,” Hawai’i head coach Laura Beeman said. “That’s one of our plays and they executed it brilliantly. That just goes to show that they never lost faith in each other, they never lost faith in the process.”

UCSB, which dropped to 21-12, had leads of 38-23 at halftime, and 46-36 at the end of the third quarter.

Photo courtesy Brandon Flores / www.brandonfloresphotography.com

“For them to have the amount of composure they did the entire game, down 15 or whatever it was, and come back and just chip away … it’s remarkable,” Beeman said.

Phillips scored 19 points, including 4-of-6 shooting from 3-point range, and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Lily Wahinekapu also scored 19 for Hawai’i, and was selected to the All-Tournament team.

The Rainbow Wahine were aided by a vocal crowd that included the UH pep band, cheerleaders, dancers, and some members of the UH men’s team.

“This gym really feels like a home gym,” graduate player Kallin Spiller said. “That’s because of our fans, because of the band, because of cheer, because of everyone who flew from the islands to support us. When we were down by that much, it was the energy they continued to give us.”

Adding to the improbability, the Rainbow Wahine lost four key players to season-ending injuries at various moments during the season.

“We believed in each other and we believed in the process,” Phillips said.

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