Stan Sheriff 25th anniversary countdown No. 10: Goo, Cockett took Wahine hoops to highest peak in 1997-98
Coached by Vince Goo, University of Hawaii women’s basketball enjoyed success before the 1994 opening of the on-campus arena.
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Coached by Vince Goo, University of Hawaii women’s basketball enjoyed success before the 1994 opening of the on-campus arena. It continued at what was then called the Special Events Arena. In six of the first eight years there the Wahine won more than 20 games and made the postseason.
“Before, whenever we had recruits in town and they asked where we played our games, it was aw shucks, we gotta go over to Klum,” Goo said. “Then we got the arena and the first thing we did was take them there.”
In 1998, the Wahine went 24-4 and tied for the program’s longest winning streak of 19 games. Senior night at the arena for Brandy Ashby, Liisa Kotilainen, Destree Wautlet, and all-time Wahine great Nani Cockett from Kamehameha Schools came on Feb. 14.
A crowd of 6,004 showed up to see the 16th-ranked team in the country play SMU. It remains the largest gathering for a stand-alone UH women’s basketball game.
“It was electric, the lower bowl filled,” Goo said. “Forever, we were always telling people to come on out, we’ve got a pretty good team. This time they came.”
They were not disappointed.
Cockett caught an elbow in her right eye early on, but the program’s second all-time leading scorer posted 20 points and blocked two shots as UH won 73-69 and finished the season 17-1 at home sweet dome.
UH improved to 22-1 overall. It was one of Hawaii’s 12 wins without a loss in the WAC regular season.
“My first year was at Klum while they were building the arena,” said Cockett, who then missed most of UH’s first season at the new venue with a knee injury. With her and Tania Brunton both out, Hawaii went 6-20. “The next year we had a great turnaround and made NCAAs. The fans were amazing and we built on it year after year.”
The 1997-98 team later lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament. But the last thing the home fans saw in person was a victory.