Hawaii stuffs Boise St., 66-64
• Photo gallery: Hawaii vs. Boise State womens' basketball
By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer
In a tribute to their one sweet senior and their own true grit, the Rainbow Wahine went wire-to-wire last night to beat Boise State, 66-64, and win Dita Liepkalne's final basketball game in Hawai'i.
The Rainbows (10-18) started the day with eight players and a six-game losing streak. Starting guard Leilani Galdones was suspended for seven days Tuesday for "violation of team rules."
Today, they are 4-11 in the Western Athletic Conference with one game left in their regular season. They are two games ahead of last-place San Jose State in the win column and closing on a slot in next month's WAC Tournament at Reno.
San Jose State ends its season at Fresno State, which clinched the outright championship last night, and New Mexico State. The 'Bows close at Utah State March 6.
Last night, before 790 at Stan Sheriff Center, however, it was all about Liepkalne and her extremely supportive cast. She scored a season-high 17 points thanks to a career-high four 3-pointers.
The final 3-pointer came with 3:03 showing and put Hawai'i up, 66-62. The rest was madness, but Liepkalne and the 'Bows never blinked.
"There was not even a thought that we could lose," the senior said. "Not today, not in a game like this."
The Broncos (17-10, 6-7 WAC), who had won their last three, cut their deficit to two on Janie Bos' jumper with 1:37 left. They would get three more shots and come up empty. Breanna Arbuckle rebounded the first miss, stuffed the second with :02 showing and Jessica Van Hoogen's wild 3-pointer went around the rim and out as time expired.
"With the home crowd behind us and the way we've been playing at home this was nearly impossible to lose," said UH coach Dana Takahara-Dias, whose team never trailed. "It got close, got tight. But all those times we came up short, would have, should have, could have, tonight was the culmination of everybody's effort. It's such a nice way to end our home season and we're one step closer to our goal Reno."
Arbuckle had a huge game, with 11 points and a career-high 16 rebounds. She was instrumental in turning an early rebounding deficit into a 42-32 advantage by the end.
Julita Bungaite, who started in Galdones' place, added 13 points and Allie Patterson 10. Leading scorer Keisha Kanekoa was the only Rainbow starter not in double digits. Kanekoa, who played the full 40 minutes for the third straight game, did her damage elsewhere, with five assists, five rebounds and in the final six minutes four free throws and almost flawless ballhandling.
The foul shots put her team ahead 61-55. The Broncos countered with a basket by Rebecca Kepilino, who scored 12 points, and a three-point play by Bos, who had 16. But on their next possession, Bos blew a wide-open layup that would have given Boise its first lead.
It was not to be.
The Broncos tied the game for the third time and first since 14-all at 44 midway through the second half. The 'Bows went back up 48-44 and during a timeout Liepkalne laid it on the line.
"I remember at the nine-minute mark saying that I have nine minutes left on this court," she recalled, "so we better not lose."
Boise, which had just one foul to the 'Bows' seven at that stage, hit two free throws. Liepkalne and Arbuckle countered with consecutive 3-pointers. The chase was on again.
The Rainbows outscored Boise 24-13 in the final 14 minutes of the first half to take a 38-27 lead at the break. Arbuckle had 11 rebounds at halftime. All but three of the 'Bows' 15 baskets came off assists.
The Broncos had used 11 players in the first 11 minutes and got scoring from 10 by the end. Hawai'i also got scoring from all but one player, but needed timeouts early in each half to slow things down.
"There were a couple series at the end where we needed a defensive stop and thank goodness we had legs under us and had the mental faculties to finish this game," Takahara said. "We burned timeouts just for that. The Great Eight needed timeouts."