POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jan 31, 2011
It felt good, looked good.
Hawaii reserve point guard Miah Ostrowski let fly a potential game-winning 3-pointer in overtime against Utah State - Hawaii's best chance in years of knocking off the perennial Western Athletic Conference champion.
But the perfect ending to this story was not to be. Ostrowski's shot from the right wing wasn't among his otherwise considerable heroics Saturday night at the Stan Sheriff Center. It rimmed out and the Aggies held on for an 89-84 win in double overtime.
"I thought it was going in. It was a rhythm shot. I knew (the defender) was trying to play the drive, so I just took a quality shot," said Ostrowski, who electrified the crowd of about 8,000 with career highs of 15 points, six assists and three steals. "I felt comfortable with it, I thought it was going to go in. But it didn't."
UH coach Gib Arnold felt comfortable with everything Ostrowski did, playing him 38 out of a possible 50 minutes just three days after the guard's father died unexpectedly of a seizure and heart failure.
It wasn't just Ostrowski who shined. Junior guard Zane Johnson matched his career high of 25 points and shot 6-for-7 on 3-pointers, bailing out the Rainbows several times when they fell behind. Senior forward Bill Amis added 15 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks for his third double-double in four games.
"I don't know if I've ever been more proud of a team and their effort," Arnold said afterward. "They stuck together. They played with their hearts. We had a warrior in Miah Ostrowski, who represents everything that we are and everything that this team and this university is about, and I'm proud to be his coach.
"The final score didn't come out on our side, but we won tonight."
UH (12-9, 3-6 WAC) remained in sixth place among nine teams, thanks to a loss by Fresno State on Saturday, but is feeling some pressure, thanks to San Jose State and Louisiana Tech each reaching two victories.
The Rainbows head back on the road this week to games at Boise State (Thursday) and Idaho (Saturday). Both are in the top half of the standings and routed UH at the Sheriff.
But Arnold's team feels like a different bunch of late, despite having a three-game winning streak snapped by the Aggies, who reached the 20-win mark for the 12th straight season.
That's largely thanks to Johnson, Amis and Ostrowski - and the crowd, which impressed with its ferocity.
"It was great. It was beautiful," Arnold said. "If we could bottle that and say, 'Coach Arnold, what is your definition of a program,' it was (Saturday)."
Many in the crowd saluted Ostrowski, both when he checked into the game and when he went into the stands to meet with family afterward.
Ostrowski didn't miss a practice after Kui Ostrowski, his father and basketball mentor since he was 5, died early Wednesday morning.
To Miah, there was no better way to honor him than playing against the No. 25 (ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll) Aggies (20-2, 9-0), who won their 15th straight game and 23rd straight in the Western Athletic Conference regular season.
With such extensive playing time for the crossover Warriors football slotback - starting point guard Hiram Thompson played only 20 minutes total despite four fouls on Ostrowski for nearly the final 20 minutes - one of the team's biggest questions is his role going forward.
At the time, though, everything was straightforward.
"Playing in the game was simple for me," Ostrowski said. "I knew it's what my dad would have wanted and he put in too much time and effort into me growing up with the game. It's just one of the biggest opportunities, the biggest game of my life. A ranked team, and I knew he wouldn't have wanted me to pass that up. I just went out there and I played my heart out."