By BILL O’REAR
Tribune-Herald sports editor
Senior Jameia McDuffie scored 21 points and sparked a 52-point second half as the University of Hawaii at Hilo rallied to a 70-65 win over Brigham Young University-Hawaii on Saturday.
The Pacific West Conference women’s basketball regular-season finale was played at Laie.
The Seasiders led 32-18 at the intermission before the Vulcans (13-10 overall, 10-7 PacWest) outscored the hosts 52-33 in the final 20 minutes to pull out the victory.
“We played really hard in the first half but couldn’t make a shot,” UHH head coach David Kaneshiro said. “In the second half, Jameia came out and hit two straight 3-pointers to kind of get us going. We ended up shooting 60 percent in the second half, including making 6 of 8 3-pointers and 16 of 17 free throws.”
Senior Elise Spain followed the red-hot McDuffie with 14 points, including 10 of 11 free throws, and she pulled down eight rebounds. Senior guard Natalie Mata added 11 points and seven rebounds.
“Natalie also did a really good job defending (BYUH’s) Shayla Washington,” Kaneshiro said. “Washington ended up with 30 points, but Natalie did a nice job during a key stretch in the second half when we took the lead and built on it.
“Nat and Kirsty (Imai) guarded Washington all night and made it tough on her.”
Kristen Hartley followed Washington with 10 points for the Seasiders (6-18, 5-13).
“I’m really happy for our ladies,” Kaneshiro said. “That was the hardest we’ve played all year in the first half and just couldn’t make a shot. But they stuck with it and really turned the game around in the second half.”
The Vulcans finished fifth in the final standings and will play Dixie State in the inaugural PacWest Women’s Basketball Tournament at Azusa Pacific.
“We’re really excited about playing in the tournament, and we’ll be ready to play,” Kaneshiro said.
The six-team women’s tourney runs Thursday through Saturday in Azusa, Calif., which is about a 30-minute drive from Los Angeles.
In first-round games Thursday, sixth-seeded BYUH (5-13) battles third-seeded Academy of Art (13-5) at 10:30 a.m. and fifth-seeded UHH (10-7) takes on fourth-seeded Dixie State (12-6) at 1 p.m. Top-seeded Hawaii Pacific University (14-4) and second-seeded Grand Canyon (14-4) drew first-round byes. HPU earned the top seed as well as the regular-season title over Grand Canyon due to the league’s tiebreaker.
In the semifinals Friday, it’s Grand Canyon vs. the No. 6/No. 3 winner at 10:30 a.m., followed by HPU vs. the No. 4/No. 5 winner at 1 p.m. Saturday’s title game is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.
Note: The tournament champions earns the conference’s automatic berth in the men’s and women’s NCAA Division II tournament. … The top eight teams in the final West Region rankings also will advance, and the fields will announced March 10.
UHH 18 52 — 70
BYUH 32 33 — 65