Hot-shooting Vuls top Sea Lions


By MATT GERHART

Tribune-Herald sports writer

The highlights came early and often for the University of Hawaii at Hilo women’s basketball team.

Kamie Imai broke down Point Loma’s full-court press with ease for early baskets. When McKenzie Mangino wasn’t acting like a guard by hitting 3-pointers or feeding Thea Hanato-Smith for driving layups, she was scooping in underarm shots in the paint.

In a nutshell, everything worked for the Vulcans on Monday night, and that’s before even taking into account Kirstie Williams’ evening.

Williams came off the bench to hit a school-record seven 3-pointers and scored 25 points as the Vulcans breezed past Point Loma 84-67 at UHH Gym.

“Things were clicking,” Williams said. “We’re starting to figure it out.”

UHH (5-6, 4-3 Pacific West Conference) produced season-bests in points, 3-pointers made (10), field-goal percentage (54.1) and assists (26).

The Sea Lions (7-5, 4-3), who entered the game third-best in the PacWest defensively, saw their four-game winning streak snapped on what was the first leg of their Hawaii road trip.

“Maybe our best performance of the season,” UHH coach David Kaneshiro said. “The good thing is, I think we can play even better.”

Imai scored 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting, and Mangino and Danielle Kooyman added 12 points apiece. Mangino finished with eight rebounds and the junior center showed a nice shooting touch from the outside with two 3-pointers en route to her season-best in points.

However, the real star from behind arc was Williams, who provided instant offense off the bench in her 19 minutes of playing time.

“It’s not hard to come off the bench and score,” she said.

The junior had surpassed her previous scoring high this season of 13 well before halftime, finishing 9 of 15 from floor and 7 off 11 from 3-point range. Krystlelyn Omlan twice hit five 3-pointers in a game in 2007 to hold the old record. Williams tied that mark near the end of the half.

“Whatever it takes to get the ‘W,”’ Williams said.

After taking a 16-point lead at halftime, there was a hint of trouble for UHH in the second half when the Sea Lions’ Callie Rhoads cut the deficit to 65-56 with a basket with 7:56 left in the game.

But Williams answered with a 3-pointer from the top of the arc, and then she hit a back-breaking 3 as the 30-second clock expired to put UHH back up by 15.

“She certainly contributed a great amount in stretches,” Kaneshiro said.

Rhoads scored 14 points, two below her season average, as taller Point Loma was outrebounded 38-26.

Imai, a Waiakea graduate, also posted with seven points and six assists.

By the end of the game, UHH’s lineup featured four Big Island players: Hanato-Smith, a Konawaena graduate who had eight points; Chelsea Santos (Waiakea); Tricia Amuimui (Waiakea); and Chelsea Poe (Kamehameha).

Point Loma 34 33 –67

UHH 50 34–84

 

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