Favored Rainbow Wahine hit the wall against UC Davis in Big West semis

Mar. 16—The outcome ended the Wahine's quest for a third consecutive Big West Tournament title and automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.

HENDERSON, NEV.—The Hawaii women's basketball team's dream season suffered a nightmarish setback in a 51-48 loss to UC Davis in Friday's semifinal round of the Big West Tournament at the Dollar Loan Center.

Evanne Turner's 3-pointer—UCD's second of the final quarter—gave the Aggies a 49-48 lead with 56.6 seconds to play.

The Rainbow Wahine missed a chance to tie or regain the lead when guard Lily Wahinekapu, who entered hitting 70.2 % from the line, missed two free throws with 10.6 seconds to play. UCD's Megan Norris grabbed the rebound.

It took three fouls for the Aggies to reach the bonus. Mazatlan Harris eventually was fouled with 6.6 seconds to play, and her two free throws completed the scoring.

"If it comes to you, " Harris recalled thinking to herself, "you know you've got this. You made your free throws in practice. This is all about your form and follow-through."

With Norris in the way, UH forward Jacque David's final shot was short as the final horn sounded.

The outcome ended the Wahine's quest for a third consecutive Big West Tournament title and automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.

"We picked a bad day to play bad basketball, " UH coach Laura Beeman said.

Two of the Wahine's best shooters—Wahinekapu and Olivia Davies—were a combined 1-for-21, including zip-for-7 on 3s. Beeman said 6-4 forward Imani Perez "didn't have legs today coming off that (previous ) injury."

And Daejah Phillips, who was named the league's best sixth player on Tuesday, suffered an injury to her right ankle with 4 :43 left in the third quarter. She was helped off the court and did not play after that.

"I think when Daejah went down, that was our dent, " said McBee, referencing a team-building analogy of a dented golf ball flying farthest. "We knew we needed to fight back for her. ... I think we did our best to fight back."

The Aggies used a 27-6 run from the second quarter through 2 :39 remaining in the third period to take a 37-24 lead.

But the Wahine chipped away, with MeiLani McBee hitting a 3 and David completing a three-point play.

UH trailed 39-32 when Kelsie Imai was fouled. She made one of two free throws to cut the deficit to six. Imai then stole a pass at halfcourt and fired to Ashley Thoms, whose 3 just before the third quarter expired closed the Wahine to 39-36.

In the seesaw fourth quarter, UCD coach Jennifer Gross implored her team to play tough defense. "We knew if we could rely on our defense, like we did the entire game, that we could just stay in it, " Gross said. "I trust our team in those moments to make tough plays on offense. If we're in it, we're going to get it done."

She also gave the green light to Turner, who was third among Big West players in scoring during the regular season. Turner hit two 3s in the fourth quarter, including the go-ahead shot.

"It doesn't matter if she's missed a few, " Gross said of Turner. "Every time the ball leaves her hands, everybody knows it has a chance to go in. We want to keep giving her the opportunities. Her teammates found her."

Beeman said : "They hit big shots when they needed to. They hit free throws when they needed to. And they had stops when they needed to."

As the Big West's regular-season champion, the Wahine will play in this coming week's WBIT.

"This team has to recalibrate, " Beeman said. "They don't have a choice. They signed up to play Hawaii basketball. They signed up to take challenges."

Beeman then spoke of the golf-ball analogy.

"The more they hit'em, they put dents in them, " Beeman said. "The golf ball flew farther (with ) more dents. We took a dent today. We need to see how far we can fly in this postseason."

Beeman noted the Wahine won the regular season and had "amazing " accomplishments.

"We are sad, we are hurting, it sucks, " Beeman said. "But one game will not define this group. We will recalibrate and we will be ready for the next tournament."