By BILL O’REAR
Tribune-Herald sports editor
Jordan Kealoha drained two free throws with 4.6 seconds remaining to lift the University of Hawaii at Hilo to a 60-58 win over the University of Alaska-Fairbanks on Tuesday night.
The preseason women’s basketball game was played before about 150 fans at the UHH Gym.
Kealoha, a 5-foot-6 junior point guard and transfer from Sacramento State, grabbed a pass from teammate Kamie Imai with about 5 seconds left on the right base line with the score tied 58-58. She then hit an off-balance left-handed runner and was fouled. But the officials ruled Kealoha was fouled prior to the shot and awarded her two free throws. The Vulcans junior then stepped to the line and made both charity shots to give UHH a 60-58 advantage.
UAF guard Benissa Bulaya drove the length of the court and her layup rolled off the rim as time expired with the Vulcans escaping with the hard-fought victory.
“I’m happy to get the win, especially for our girls,” UHH coach David Kaneshiro said. “But we’ve got a lot of things to work on.”
Kealoha and junior sharpshooter Charlotte “CC” Rode each scored 12 points to lead the Vulcans (1-1). Senior Kamie Imai had nine points, junior Thea Hanato-Smith eight. Juniors Whitney Edens and McKenzie Mangino, transfers from Santa Rosa Junior College, added seven apiece. The 5-10 Mangino had a team-high 10 rebounds.
Jordan Wilson, a 5-11 freshman forward, led UAF (4-1) with a game-high 18 points — all in the second half — and 11 rebounds. Bulaya followed with nine points and freshman Autumn Childers chipped in with eight.
UHH started strong in the first half and led 33-21 at the intermission. The Vulcans were sparked by the 3-point shooting of Rode (3 treys) and Hanato-Smith (2 treys). The Vulcans also battled the taller Nanooks inside the paint, trying to limit their post scoring and offensive rebounding.
But the Nanooks finally started to make some shots in the second half and clamped on an effective full-court press that took its toll on UHH. The Nanooks outscored the Vulcans 16-2 midway through the second half to tie the score at 39-39 with 11:40 left.
From that point on, the teams battled on even terms with neither squad holding more than a four-point advantage.
Rode sank two free throws with 1:17 remaining to tie the score at 56-all. Imai then drilled two free throws at 1:02 to give the hosts a 58-56 lead.
Wilson answered for the Nanooks with two clutch free throws with 34 seconds left to tie the contest a final time.
The Vulcans then got the ball to Imai and spread the floor. Imai drove to the basket with time running down, jumped in the air and found Kealoha open on the right side. Kealoha attacked on the dribble and was fouled, sending her to the free-throw line for what proved to be the game-winning charity shots.
The Vulcans shot 33 percent from the field, while the Nanooks hit a chilly 29 percent from the floor.
The NCAA rule this year to enforce hand-checking by the defense proved to extend the game longer — it took 2 hours, 15 minutes to finish. The officiating trio called 55 fouls with 70 free throws being shot. The Vulcans were 22 of 34 from the line; the Nanooks, 24 of 36.
“With the emphasis on hand-checking this year, we’ve got to do a better job of using our feet and getting into position,” Kaneshiro said. “The rule is something every team will have to adjust to this season.”
Each team had 42 rebounds. UAF also had 11 steals compared to UHH’s seven.
In the first of their two-game series Monday, the Nanooks edged the Vulcans 62-61.
Silverswords on deck
The Vulcans will play at Chaminade University on Dec. 2 at McCabe Gym. They close their two-game Oahu trip with a 4:30 p.m. contest against Hawaii Pacific University on Dec. 4 at Kanehoe.
Bulaya 4-11 1-3 9, Logue 2-7 2-2 6, Chapman 1-4 0-2 2, Wilson 6-14 6-8 18, Childers 0-2 8-10 8, Milton 2-9 3-6 7, Kirk 0-3 2-2 2, Prestwich 0-0 0-0 0, Skjold 2-6 2-3 6, Thornton 0-1 0-0 0, O’Neal 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-57 24-36 56.
Rode 3-5 3-5 12, Edens 2-9 3-5 7, Imai 2-8 5-6 9, Kealoha 3-11 5-6 12, Mangino 3-5 1-3 7, Jacobs 0-1 2-5 2, Kooyman 0-2 1-2 1, Hanato-Smith 2-5 2-2 8, Amuimuia 0-1 0-0 0, Reynolds 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 16-48 22-34 60
Halftime— UHH 33-21. 3-Point Goals— UAF 0-12, UHH 6-12 (Rode 3-4, Hanato-Smith 2-3). Fouled out—(Logue, Milton). Rebounds—UAF 42 (Wilson 11), UHH 42 (Mangino 10, Edens 7). Assists— UAF 7, UHH 10 (Imai 3, Keaaloha 3). Total Fouls—UAF 30, UHH 25. Technical— Mangino, UHH. A—150.