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Beeman named Coach of Year in Big West basketball

    The University of Hawaii Rainbow Wahine Head Coach Laura Beeman talks to the team during a time out during a game against the Long Beach State 49ers on Thursday night at the Walter Pyramid.

Hawaii basketball coach Laura Beeman, who has the Rainbow Wahine heading to the Big West tournament as the regular-season champion and top seed, was named the conference’s Coach of the Year Monday morning.

The third-year coach and the Rainbow Wahine also left Monday morning disappointed with the rest of the all-conference awards, particularly Player of the Year. That went to UC Riverside junior guard Brittany Crain and not Hawaii senior guard Shawna-Lei Kuehu; both were named to the first team.

“I’m thoroughly, thoroughly disappointed that Shawna-Lei did not receive Player of the Year,” Beeman said of her team captain who leads the Rainbow Wahine in points, assists, blocks, steals and rebound average. “This is no disrespect to Brittany Crain, who is a tremendous player, but Shawna-Lei is the heart and soul of our team and I think the Big West coaches made a big mistake.

“All you have to do is look at the fact that the only two losses we have in a very tough conference were the two games she missed. And that is the biggest stat anyone needs to look at. She could have easily scored 20 points a night but that’s not her style. And I couldn’t put her up for the Sixth Man Award because she started too many games for us in the preseason.”

Hawaii (22-7, 14-2) also earned its third consecutive Sixth Woman of the Year award when freshman center Megan Huff was selected. Huff, who joined the team in late December after playing for the Rainbow Wahine volleyball team last fall, also was named to the all-freshman team.

Kuehu was named to the first team, senior guard Ashleigh Karaitiana to the second team and junior guard Destiny King was an honorable mention. Kuehu was a second-team selection in 2014, honorable mention in 2013 and on the Western Athletic Conference all-freshman team in 2011.

Kuehu was named the Sixth Woman in 2013 and Karaitiana named last season. Joining Kuehu on the first team were Crain, Sydnee Fipps of UC Davis, Cal Poy’s Ariana Elegado, Chante Miles from Cal State Fullerton and CSUN’s Ashlee Guay

UC Riverside’s Michelle Curry was named Freshman of the Year. CSUN’s Janae Sharpe repeated as Best Defensive Player and the Best Hustle Award went to Taryn Garza of Cal Poly.

Crain led the Big West in scoring (22.1 ppg), was second in steals (2.0 spg), eighth in blocks (0.8 bog), and 12th in rebounding (6.0 rpg) and shooting percentage (.432). The Highlanders finished tied for fifth at 8-8, six games behind champion Hawaii. 

By comparison, Kuehu was fourth in blocks (1.3 bpg) and shooting percentage (.496), ninth in rebounding (6.4 rpg), 12th in scoring (12.0 ppg) and 13th in steals (1.4 spg).

Hawaii takes a 14-game winning streak into the conference semifinal game Friday. UH’s opponent will be the lowest remaining seed to advance out of Thursday’s quarterfinals. 

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