Senior guard Shawna-Lei Kuehu scored 16 points and Hawaii rallied for its 12th consecutive victory, defeating host Long Beach State Thursday night 47-45 to clinch its first conference title in 21 years.
Junior guard Destiny King added nine points, including the go-ahead basket with 4:46 to go for the Rainbow Wahine (20-7, 12-2 Big West), who last won a conference championship in 1993-94.
As happened last Saturday when holding off UC Davis, Hawaii needed a last-second defensive stop to secure the win. The 49ers (20-7, 7-6) were unable to get a shot to fall in the final three seconds.
Senior guard Ashleigh Karaitiana added 13 rebounds for the Rainbow Wahine, who out-rebounded The Beach 44-27.
Hallie Meneses had a game-high 19 points for the injury-hampered 49ers, who only had eight players available.
It is Hawaii’s first 20-win season since 2001-02 when the team finished 23-8. It also gives the Rainbow Wahine the top seed and a double-bye into the Big West tournament semifinals on March 13 in Anaheim, Calf.
The Rainbow Wahine finish out the regular-season at UC Santa Barbara on March 5 and at the Stan Sheriff Center agains Cal State Fullerton March 7.