The late-season surge of the Hawaii women’s basketball team has carried the Rainbow Wahine into the Big West tournament championship game.
Senior point guard Tia Kanoa put in a career-high 19 points, doled out nine assists and grabbed six rebounds to lead the way in a 66-58 win over UC Riverside today at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Senior forward Leah Salanoa added 11 points and four assists.
Second-seeded UH (15-15) won its fourth straight game and will face top seed UC Davis (24-6, 15-1) in the title game at 12:30 p.m. Saturday with an NCAA tournament berth on the line. The Rainbow Wahine last made it there in 2016.
>> Rainbow Wahine advance to Big West tournament final
UH shot 65.2 percent in the first half (15-for-23), paced by Kanoa’s 11 points on 5-for-5 shooting, to build a 38-31 lead at halftime.
Third-seeded Riverside (17-15) drew within a point in the third quarter but the UH lead grew to four heading into the fourth.
Salanoa ended a scoring drought for both teams with her third triple of the game for a 55-48 lead with 5:30 remaining.
Riverside, which was without its best player Jannon Otto due to injury, drew within 57-55 on a 3 by Malou De Kergret (20 points) with under three minutes left.
Lahni Salanoa’s three-point play with 1:20 left made it a five-point game.
Kanoa and Courtney Middap went 6-for-6 at the line in the final minute when the Highlanders went to fouling.
UH was the only Big West team to defeat UC Davis during the regular season, a 65-60 decision at the Stan Sheriff Center on Jan. 12.
When the Wahine won the Big West tournament in 2016 as the 2 seed, it came at the expense of Davis in the championship game.