If the Vulcans didn’t believe before, they probably do now.
Far away from the classroom, the University of Hawaii at Hilo women’s basketball team got three big lessons in the power of perseverance in Northern California.
Coach David Kaneshiro no longer has to spend so much time preaching such intangibles. He can simply pop in the tape: The Vuls were clutch when it counted.
When Kamie Imai wasn’t playing hero at the horn in Fresno, she was driving and finding Shannon Rousseau for a buzzer-beater of her own in San Francisco. And just when all seemed lost in Oakland, Jameia McDuffie took over to put a stamp on a 4-0 road trip.
Looking to provide an encore performance for their Bay Area sweep, the Vuls ride a wave of momentum into tonight’s 5 p.m. game against BYU-Hawaii at UHH Gym.
“I’d say our confidence is pretty high,” Kaneshiro said. “Whenever you can win three close games like that. We’re coming together, gaining trust and overcoming adversity.”
“Every game is different, but just sticking together and finding ways to win close games.”
So close, in fact, that Kaneshiro doesn’t expect senior-laden UHH (9-6, 6-3 Pacific West Conference) to let up against the struggling Seasiders (4-10, 3-5).
“We understand that, yes, we won four on the road, but they were close games,” he said. “They know they can’t take anybody for granted. We have to show up for every game.
“Whenever we play (BYU-Hawaii), it’s close.”
With their recent surge, the Vulcans find themselves in good shape as they make a push at the inaugural six-team PacWest tournament. UHH is in fifth place with nine games remaining, and even has some margin for error. Dominican (4-4) is on the six line.
With two tall guards averaging over 20 points per game — Shayla Washington, 5-foot-9, and Brydgette Tatupu-Leopoldo, 5-8 — the Seasiders can score the basketball. Washington, a senior from Phoenix, leads the league in scoring (20.1) and is second in rebounds (11.6). Another perimeter player, Danna Lynn Hooper, puts up 14 points per game for a team that averages 70.9 a contest. However, the Seasiders also yield 79.4 points a game, second-worst in the conference.
Kamie Imai’s 11.3 team-leading scoring average is modest in comparison, but UHH has played better defense and shot at a higher clip.
“They like to run up and down the floor and score in a lot of different ways,” Kaneshiro said. “We have shorter guards, so that will be a tough matchup for us.”
Not that he’s afraid Kirsty Imai, Kirsten Shimizu and McDuffie won’t be up to the task.
“They’re as tough as anybody we have on the team,” he said.
Following the women’s game, the UHH men (4-14. 2-7) take on BYU-Hawaii (9-7, 6-2) at 7:30 p.m.