By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Goodbye, Kamie. Hello, San Diego. See you again soon, Hawaii Pacific.
For the University of Hawaii at Hilo women’s basketball team, Senior Night was aptly named. The Vulcans had just one, and Waiakea graduate Kamie Imai went out with a coast-to-coast vintage performance in a 78-61 loss to Hawaii Pacific on Saturday night at UHH Gym.
“She was great from the very start,” coach David Kaneshiro said. “She really got us going by making a couple of really nice plays in transition early. She kept it going all the way through, whether it was setting up other people or scoring herself.”
A sour ending, but Imai and UHH won’t have to wait long for a chance at redemption.
Their second straight loss relegates the Vulcans (9-15, 8-12 Pacific West Conference) to the sixth seed in the PacWest playoffs and a rematch with the Sea Warriors (17-9, 13-7) on Thursday in the first round in San Diego.
“We certainly were competitive and we’re not going to be intimidated,” Kaneshiro said. “We’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Imai ended her two-year college run in Hilo in style, scoring a game-high 24 points with team highs of eight rebounds and five assists.
She exited to nice ovation with 20.4 seconds left and had the public-address announcer thank her parents, Kelli and Kirk Imai, for all of their help along the way during a postgame ceremony before a men’s game that ended after the Tribune-Herald’s deadline.
Imai was 10 of 17 from the field, but UHH shot just 36.7 percent. Guard Kirstie Williams missed all eight of her shots and was scoreless.
Hawaii Pacific registered five players in double figures. Morganne Comstock, a 6-foot-2 senior, led the way with 20 points, and Skye Savini added 18 on 4-of-7 shooting on 3-pointers.
HPU scored the first five points of the second half to open up its first double-digit lead, 40-29.
Whitney Edens gave UHH a spark, scoring nine of her 14 points in the second half, including a 3-pointer that got the Vulcans within 61-55 with 3:05 remaining in the game.
But the Sea Warriors put the game away with a 7-0 run, shooting 43.9 percent, and 9 of 19 from behind the 3-point line. They owned a 45-32 rebounding advantage.
“At the start of the second half, they did a good job of knocking down open shots and we were not as sharp as we were in the first half,” Kaneshiro said. “I thought we played hard and we competed.”
HPU 35 43 — 78
UHH 29 32 — 61