Women’s college basketball: Sweet sendoff for Vulcans’ senior six
Saying goodbye is seldom as sweet as it was for six University of Hawaii at Hilo seniors Thursday night at Hilo Civic when their third game in a row went with uncommon ease in a 64-52 victory over Dixie State.
The win improved the Vulcans to 8-9 in the Pacific West Conference and 8-12 on the season, seeming to keep alive an outside shot at a conference tournament berth, if they can continue their winning ways in their last three road games.
Dixie State collapsed to its 19th loss this season against just four wins, while the Trailblazers record fell to 4-13 in conference play.
With games remaining at Holy Names (Tuesday), a 2-14 team in the PWC prior to Thursday’s games, then they finish at Academy of Art and Dominican, two teams just ahead of them in the standings.
Kim Schmelz led a balanced UHH offense with 15 points, Asia Smith had 11 and seven rebounds to go with it, Sydney Mercer had 10 points.
The Vulcans were outscored 36-28 in the second half, but it hardly mattered at that point after leading by as many as 25 in the first half, 49-24.
“It was a concern in the second half,” said coach David Kaneshiro. “They were killing us on the boards in the first half but missing their shots while we were making our jump shots.
“At halftime, we stressed that we needed to do a better job on the boards and we had to keep up the shooting,” he said. “It got a little too close but we had enough of a cushion.”
One of the six seniors, Asia Smith, may end up doing this all over again as she plan to apply for a sixth season after sitting out two years with non-basketball related issues.
“I’ve just recently found out about that and it’s something I want to try,” she said. “I don’t want this to be the end, but I don’t know how likely it is, I’m just going to try to see if I can make it work.
“It’s been an amazing time here,” she said, “one of those things you don’t want to end.”
Hawaii Hilo clamped down defensively in the first half and coasted, with a bump or two along the way in the second half.
The first half was as non-competitive as the Vulcans have experienced all season. Dixie State started out dominating the boards and missing shot after shot. By halftime, the Trailblazers had a 25-19 advantage on the glass and managed just 17 percent shooting from the floor, on 5-of-29 field goal attempts.
That was the high-water mark for the visitors from Utah. There was a point in the second quarter when UHH was up 23-9 and Dixie State was shooting 13.6 on 3 of 22.
Meanwhile, all nine Vulcans who got in the game scored, led by Mercer who had on two 3-pointers and two field goals and the Vulcans committed just four turnovers while DSU had a dozen turnovers.
The Vulcans were as close to fully healthy as they’ve been all season, with Patience Taylor having been given medical clearance after practicing all week and not playing in a game for 59 days. After a timeout with 30.4 seconds left, Kaneshiro put senior Vanessa Mancera into the game even though she is hobbled by her third ACL injury. Mancera went to the far end of the court, stayed away from contact and was subbed out with 10.9 seconds left. Kaneshiro sent Taylor in for the last 30 seconds.
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