It was a matter of pride and — should Hawaii join the Big West in two seasons — potentially the start of a big rivalry.
That was the feeling last night as six former members of Team Aloha, an island prep all-star squad, were split up at the Stan Sheriff Center, three playing for the host Rainbow Wahine and three for Cal State Northridge. The trio wearing UH uniforms got the better of those in Matadors uniforms, opening the season with a 66-58 victory in yesterday’s second game of the Jack in the Box Rainbow Wahine Classic.
Led by Honokaa product Keisha Kanekoa’s game-high 19 points, the Wahine (1-0) head into today’s 3 p.m. game with Eastern Michigan (1-2) with confidence.
"This was a pride game for all the girls from Hawaii," said Kanekoa, who had four steals. "But this was our home court.
"They (the local players on CSUN) brought a good crowd and both teams played hard. We did have a lot of turnovers (24), but we hit the big shots when we needed to."
Some of the biggest were from the free-throw line, where Hawaii finished 20-for-27, including 6-for-6 in the final 5:43.
"Free throws have been our Achilles’ heel; we were at the bottom of the WAC last season," Wahine coach Dana Takahara-Dias said. "What a difference a year makes. We were tested many times tonight. They were always coming back at us.
"I just hope we have something left in the tank for Eastern Michigan. We know they’ll play better tomorrow."
In yesterday’s opener, Oregon State (2-0) outscored Eastern Michigan 35-18 in the second half to stun the Eagles 59-44. The Beavers take on Cal State Northridge (0-2) at 5 p.m. today.
Matador sophomore guard Janelle Nomura (Punahou) said her team needs to cut down on turnovers and come ready to play against the Beavers.
"We were nervous to start. It meant so much for all of us to be playing back home," said Nomura, whose only points came on a 3-pointer that brought her team to within 54-43 with 9:36 left. "If UH does end up in our conference (in 2012-13), I’ll be a senior. It would give a rival. We’d love it."
Sophomore forward Vi Alama (Kalani) led the Matadors with 16 points. Senior forward Analee Viena-Lota (Kamehameha), hampered by fouls most of the game, added eight points and four rebounds.
Takahara-Dias coached all six of the former Team Aloha players and "it was a different type of cheering for me tonight," she said. "It was a great reunion, and it was great to see six local girls playing Division I basketball."
Coming up big for Hawaii was junior forward Breanna Arbuckle, who finished with 14 points, and freshman forward Kamilah Jackson with 11 rebounds. Hawaii opened the game on a tear, racing out to a 9-0 lead in the first 63 seconds, with Kanekoa accounting for five. CSUN countered with an 8-0 run — including five by Alama.
Two straight baskets by Kanekoa capped an 8-0 run that pushed the Wahine lead to 17-8. Hawaii led 26-14, but the Matadors got hot late from the outside, with four 3-pointers in the final 6 minutes, to stay close at halftime 36-28.
Oregon State 59, Eastern Michigan 44
Sage Indendi scored 14 points, 12 on 3-pointers, to lead the Beavers over the Eagles.
El Sara Greer dominated defensively for OSU with 13 rebounds and six blocked shots. Down 26-24 at halftime, the Beavers outscored the Eagles 35-18 in the second half, with Alyssa Martin scoring 10 of her 12 points after intermission.
India Hairston was the only EMU player in double figures with 12.
Hawaii 66, Cal state northridge 58
Rainbow Wahine (1-0)
Key — fg-a: field goals made-attempted; ft-a: free throws made-attempted; rb: rebounds; pf: personal fouls; pts: total points; a: assists; to: turnovers; min: minutes played.
Halftime — Hawaii 36, CS Northridge 28
3-point goals — CSN 8-21 (Alama 2-2. Viena-Lota 2-6, Conejo 1-5, McIntyre 1-3, Nomura 1-1, Thomson 1-4), Hawaii 4-11 (Bungaite 2-2, Ayabe 1-2, Kanekoa 1-3).
Steals — CSN 9 White 3, Alama 2, Conejo, Erving, McIntyre, Viena-Lota), Hawaii 12 (Kanekoa 4, Tinnin 3, Patterson 2, Arbuckle, Bungaite, Kuehu). Blocked shots — CSN 3 (Alama, Conejo, Erving), Hawaii 3 (Arbuckle 2, Dew). Officials — Kaili Kimura, Todd Apo, Kirk Hottendorf. A– 1,522.