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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, November 19, 2001

Wahine basketball team claims Classic title

By Leila Wai
Special to The Advertiser

Never have the fruits of one's labor come back to haunt someone as much as they did in yesterday's Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort Classic championship game.

Wahine Christen Roper battles Portland State's Sarah Hedgepeth. Roper, one of several players recruited by then-UH assistant George Wolfe, hurt her former coach with MVP play — 19 points, 14 rebounds.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

Portland State coach George Wolfe watched as a number of players he recruited to the University of Hawai'i rolled to a 68-55 victory at the Stan Sheriff Center.

Wolfe had been a part of the Wahine program for 13 years before taking over at Portland State.

He recruited tournament MVP Christen Roper, all-tournament player Natasja Allen and Wahine senior captain Karena Greeny.

Yesterday, Wolfe and a crowd of 597 saw the trio torch the Vikings. Roper had 19 points and 14 rebounds, Allen added 19 points and 10 rebounds, and Greeny contributed seven points and six rebounds.

"There was a lot of emotions involved, of course," Wolfe said of the on-court reunion. "I recruited half the team; there are a lot of ties there."

Perhaps mindful of their coach's emotions, the Vikings started quickly, scoring the game's first eight points.

"We played a little bit differently defensively, and they had some 3-pointers early that surprised us," UH coach Vince Goo said.

The Wahine finally took their first lead with 11:30 left in the half when Janka Gabrielova's basket made it 13-12.

"We didn't come out quite as intense, and I think it was because we had a game last night," Roper said. "It was our first back-to-back game effort, and I think we were tired. But all teams were tired, so I don't think that was a factor."

The score was tied at 15 when the Vikings went on a 10-0 run.

The Wahine responded with their own 10-0 run. Allen sank four free throws, and April Atuaia and Michelle Gabriel hit successive 3-pointers, tying the score at 25 with 2:40 to play.

"We weren't playing their personnel that well, and then we switched things up," said Gabriel. "We had to make adjustments."

Greeny nailed a 3-pointer with three seconds left to give the Wahine a 32-27 lead at the half.

"They play really hard, and it was a good test for us because we had to come back on them," said Goo. "After being down 25-15, we got the lead back and went into the half up five. That's what basketball is about — making adjustments as the game goes on."

The second half belonged to the Wahine. The Vikings tied the score at 36 with 15:29 to play but could never take the lead and fell behind by as many as 16 points.

The Wahine defense was effective, creating 13 turnovers and making six steals.

"It was a good battle," said Goo. "George and his PSU team are going to do really good in their conference. They have talent and they play with a lot of intensity."

Staci Kleier led the Vikings with 13 points. All-tournament player Sarah Hedgepeth added eight points and seven rebounds.

Wolfe said it was a difficult game to coach.

"Working side-by-side with Vince and his coaching staff for so long, I had a lot of emotions tied with Hawai'i and they had a lot tied with me," he said. "I almost told my assistant coaches to coach because I couldn't concentrate."

Earlier, Celeria Washington scored 17 points as Texas A&M beat Washington State, 71-56, for third place.

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