Thoms takes charge when Rainbow Wahine need it most

Mar. 2—To understand the important role Ashley Thoms has played for the Hawaii women's basketball team in her career, the final minute of regulation in Thursday's overtime victory over UC Davis is Exhibit A.

To understand the important role Ashley Thoms has played for the Hawaii women's basketball team in her career, the final minute of regulation in Thursday's overtime victory over UC Davis is Exhibit A.

In a tied game with sole possession of first place in the Big West on the line, Thoms locked in on Aggies leading scorer Evanne Turner on the right wing and immediately forced a turnover coming out of a timeout.

UC Davis called another timeout 30 seconds later and drew up a final play for Turner for the win. Thoms stayed with her the entire way and hounded her enough on a jumper from the right elbow at the end of regulation to force a miss to keep the game going.

The final box score reads five points and one rebound on 2-for-2 shooting in 34 minutes played. Anybody who understands the game of basketball also understands Thoms is about much more than just a stat line.

"There are kids, you say, 'I need you to go over the brick wall or around it, ' Ashley just goes through it, " Hawaii coach Laura Beeman said this week. "She shows up consistently every single day whether she's hurt or not hurt. What she does for us defensively on the court, her energy that last few months has been phenomenal. She's definitely on a mission."

Thoms and the Rainbow Wahine are one victory against UC Riverside tonight from finishing undefeated at home in Big West regular season play.

A win would also clinch one of the two double byes for the top two seeds in the BWC tournament in two weeks. Hawaii would only need to win twice to claim a third consecutive conference championship.

Since transferring to Hawaii from Weber State, Thoms has finished every season in the NCAA Tournament.

"(Coming here ) is definitely one of the best decisions of my life, " Thoms said Tuesday. "I've seen success here and I've got nothing but love and have had the most amazing three years I could ever ask for."

Thoms comes from an athletic family. Her grandfather (Art Thoms ) was a first-round pick of the Oakland Raiders in 1969 and played eight seasons in the NFL, reaching the Super Bowl once, in 1976.

Her father, Art, played football at Fresno State.

Her parents moved to Hawaii when she transferred from Weber State and have been regulars courtside at home games for the past three seasons.

It'll be a little different tonight, as Thoms expects more than 20 family and friends to join them for her final home game.

"I couldn't have asked for a better senior year. I've already graduated, so school is kind of a breeze, " Thoms said. "I know it's my senior year, but all throughout this season I've kind of just kept my mind on our team goal. I know this week brings a little but of emotion and it's getting a little bit more real but keeping my eyes on the prize."

Thoms was recruited initially as a walk-on, but through the entire process, she felt like she was treated as if she was one of the best players.

At the end of her first season in 2021-22, she was awarded a scholarship from Beeman at the team's postseason banquet, where she was also named the team's best defensive player.

"That was a no-brainer. We had the scholarship and it was like, 'Look what this kid is doing for us, '" Beeman said. "Just to be able to surprise her at the banquet like that, those are the moments that are really cool as a head coach. Those are memorable moments when you can bring that kind of joy to not just Ashley, but her family, and know it's just the right thing to do."

UH (17-9, 14-3 ) avenged an earlier loss this season to the Aggies on Thursday. It can do the same tonight against the Highlanders (16-11, 11-6 ), who are tied for third place and still within range of a top-two seed in the tournament.

UC Riverside senior guard Jordan Webster, who leads the conference in scoring at 17.4 points per game, made a season-high six 3-pointers and finished with 28 points in a win over the Rainbow Wahine in January.

"(She ) had a phenomenal game against us. They have a really good three-headed snake at Riverside, " Beeman said. "We didn't play well, but I'm not going to take anything away from what they did in their execution. Hopefully we can reverse that execution here."

Thoms and fourth-year junior Olivia Davies, who will not return next season, will be recognized after the game.