By BILL O’REAR
Tribune-Herald sports editor
Okesene Ale scored 26 points and Pablo Coro had 24 to lead Brigham Young University-Hawaii to a hard-fought 91-86 win over the University of Hawaii at Hilo on Saturday night.
The Pacific West Conference men’s basketball regular-season finale was played at Laie, Oahu.
BYUH led 45-39 at the intermission. But the Vulcans rallied and built a nine-point lead with 9:25 left in the contest before the Seasiders regained the lead down the stretch.
Senior Mychael Hearn hit a 3-pointer with 3:01 remaining to give the Vulcans their final lead, at 80-79. But the Seasiders took back the lead for good at 81-80 on Ale’s two free throws at the 2:46 mark. Ale then made four more free throws and Coro drilled four straight in the final 2:14 to hold off the hustling Vulcans.
Down the stretch — the final 2:46, BYUH went 12 for 14 from the free-throw line while UHH made 4 of 6.
Ale, a former Kahuku High standout, closed out his Seasiders’ four-year career with his game-high 26 points. He made 7 of 12 field goals, 5 of 7 3-pointers and 7 of 8 free throws. Coro sank 7 of 14 field goals, 4 of 8 treys and 6 of 6 free throws. Teammate Taylor Maughan added 13 points.
Hearn led UHH with 22 points. He made 8 of 13 field goals, 2 of 2 treys and 4 of 7 free throws.
Senior Kiel Myers followed Hearn with 17 points. Senior Michael Melonas had 13 points and a game-high nine rebounds. Junior Oxone-Ross Mavungu added 10 points, making 4 of 5 field goals and 2 of 3 free throws.
Seniors Paul Batausa and CJ Brown chipped in with 9 and 8 points, respectively.
The biggest difference for BYUH was its clutch free-throw shooting — 21 of 28 — and 3-point shooting, 12 of 23. The Vulcans hit 7 of 15 treys and 21 of 31 free throws to keep it close, and outrebounded the hosts 40-30.
The Seasiders shot 48 percent (29 of 60) from the field while the Vulcans hit 46.8 percent (29 of 62).
“It was a good game, back and forth,” UHH coach Jeff Law said. “In the last four minutes we held them without a field goal, but we kept fouling and couldn’t make enough free throws.
“But I’m really proud of the effort. The seniors came out and played smart. We played better as a team, and the guys coming off the bench did a good job. Over here, they make you play a little different and we gave ourselves a chance to win. If we could have gotten an offensive rebound or stopped fouling toward the end, we might have pulled it out.”
The Seasiders (15-11 overall) finished the PacWest regular season with a 12-6 record and earned a berth in the inaugural PacWest Men’s Basketball Tournament at Azusa Pacific. The six-team tourney runs Thursday through Saturday in Azusa, Calif.
The tournament champion earns the conference’s automatic berth in the 64-team NCAA Division II Men’s National Championships.
BYUH will be joined in the tournament by Dixie State (14-3 PacWest, 19-6 overall), Grand Canyon (14-3, 23-5), Chaminade (14-3, 17-8), Dominican (11-6, 15-10) and Academy of Art (7-10, 9-15).
The Vulcans finished their season with a 4-13 PacWest record and 6-19 mark overall.
UHH 39 47 — 86
BYUH 45 46 — 91