Through thick and thin this season, coach GE Coleman has been unwavering in his belief that the foundation is set for University of Hawaii at Hilo men’s basketball.
On Saturday night, the foundation came together as one in the form of a celebratory postgame mob on the court.
Dominique Campbell’s putback with one second left lifted the Vulcans to a 78-76 victory against Hawaii Pacific at UHH Gym and a four-game winning streak to finish the regular season.
“We closed it out,” Coleman said. “We stuck with it and found a way. That’s a pretty good team we beat.”
On their Senior Night, Lucas Swanson led all scorers with 27 points and Brandon Thomas added 18 points and nine rebounds for UHH (7-19, 4-16 Pacific West Conference), while Derek Owens had a rough shooting night.
“Lucas and Derek Owens lead by example,” Coleman said. “Derek is 0 for 6, but he gets two points, seven rebounds and three assists.
“Brandon gave us everything he had. Great way for him to go out. Whenever he has conditioning and plays with energy, he’s pretty good.”
After finishing his first season on a high note, Coleman and his staff are set to leave today on a recruiting trip.
“This gives the returnees a little confidence, but now it’s our job,” Coleman said. “We’ve got to bring some more depth and talent to this program for next year.
“I’ve talked over and over again about laying a foundation and I think we’ve done that with how hard we want to play, and to play unselfish.”
Darry Jones Jr. scored 20 points for the playoff-bound Sea Warriors (14-12, 9-11), hitting a 3-pointer to tie the game with 15 seconds remaining.
On UHH’s final possession, Joey Rodriguez drove to the basket and missed a layup, but Campbell was there for the game-winner. The junior finished with nine points and seven rebounds.
“He’s just an X-factor,” Coleman said. “He does everything right.”
Yevgeniy Dyachenko (14 points) and Owens each made four 3-pointers. Owens made of 11 of 23 from the floor, but UHH shot 40.6 percent (28 of 69).
Despite a 4-of-19 effort from Justin Long, HPU shot 51.7 percent (30 of 58). The Sea Warriors also owned a 46-33 rebounding advantage but were hampered by 20 turnovers.
“Justin Long is as hard as anybody to guard in this league,” Coleman said. “He missed shots tonight.”
Dyachenko made three 3-pointers in the second half, including two in a 45-second span to fuel an 8-0 spurt and stake the Vulcans to a 64-56 lead with 7:19 remaining in the game.
The lead was down to one when Jones made a layup with just more than a minute left. Owens missed a 3-pointer, but Rodriguez (six points, seven assists) came up with a steal and found Thomas for dunk.
UHH’s fourth senior, Daniel Perry, got into the game and was 0 of 1 from the floor.
HPU 35 41—76
UHH 39 39—78