POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Feb 15, 2011
On Valentine's Night, leave it to the University of Hawaii's Miah Ostrowski to give from the heart.
Overtime belonged to the littlest Rainbow Warrior, and because it did, UH jubilantly ran off the Stan Sheriff Center hugging both its sparkplug guard and a stirring 69-67 OT victory over Nevada.
Sixteen days earlier in their last appearance on the home floor, the week of his father's death, the 'Bows and Ostrowski had been unable to put away an emotional double overtime game against Utah State — try as he might.
And he put up 15 points in a determined effort to do so.
But this time there would be no denying the 5-foot, 9-inch football player turned hoopster. Nobody could thwart him inside when he went to the basket amid the tall timber. And no one could outhustle him for critical rebounds or defend against his passes. All of which added up to the four biggest points and four most telling rebounds in the game.
With Nevada having closed to 65-64, Ostrowski made a key inside basket off a floater with 1 minute, 3 seconds left to boost UH up, 67-64.
Then, when Deonte Burton tied it at 67 with a 3-pointer with 51.8 seconds remaining, it was left to Ostrowski to provide the answer, a 15-footer with 21 seconds left.
Ostrowski helped make it stand up, grabbing a rebound with 3 seconds left and drawing a foul with 2 seconds remaining. He missed the free throw, but when Nevada's Hail Mary length-of-the-court desperation shot harmlessly missed, Ostrowski was enveloped in high-fives and hugs from teammates and saluted by the remnants of an ecstatic crowd of about 3,500.
Less than two months ago when Ostrowski joined the 'Bows after the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, it seemed one of those interesting little sidelights to the season. One that figured to be a curiosity for about a week or two as the former Punahou School star got to play out the flip side of his resume.
It looked for all the world like he'd help give UH some depth on the bench at guard and, maybe, spell injury-haunted Hiram Thompson on occasion.
And, in the previous meeting with Nevada on Dec. 31, that was pretty much his role as he played 6 minutes in an 86-69 blowout loss.
But as he worked the rust off, an interesting tale has unfolded. Ostrowski has become more than a filler; he's turned into a game-changer. If not with his boundless energy and ability to break down opponents off the dribble, then for his instinct and ability to be in the right places at the right times.
There are reasons these surging 'Bows have won five of their past seven games to reach 14-10 overall and 5-7 in the Western Athletic Conference. The return of Bill Amis from a confounding foot injury is surely one of them. So, too, is the escalating development of Vander Joaquim, who scored a career-high 24 points last night.
Then there is Ostrowski, whose impact, just like his inner diesel drive, cannot be denied.
Last night's victory gave UH its most victories in a season since 2006-07 and, barring a total collapse, made it likely the 'Bows will have a place in the WAC tournament in Las Vegas next month.
And, with a straight-from-the-heart effort, it underlined Ostrowski's meteoric rise before our eyes from a midseason curiosity to a prime-time game-changer.
Reach Ferd Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org.