Jan. 29 — Along with her rebound total, Hawaii center Imani Perez’s ability to rebound at the free-throw line helped seal the Rainbow Wahine basketball team’s 51-47 comeback win over Cal State Bakersfield on Saturday.
Along with her rebound total, Hawaii center Imani Perez’s ability to rebound at the free-throw line helped seal the Rainbow Wahine basketball team’s 51-47 comeback win over Cal State Bakersfield on Saturday.
Perez’s work on the boards helped the Wahine rally from a 13-point deficit in the first quarter to take the lead in the third quarter. They protected a one-point lead with 28.1 seconds left when the 6-foot-4 freshman went to the line and missed two free throws.
The Wahine managed to hold off the Roadrunners for the moment but held on to a still-tenuous 49-47 lead when Perez was fouled again with 11 seconds left. This time, she calmly let both out to help an undermanned UH lineup to a win at the Icardo Center in Bakersfield.
“I know she missed a couple of free throws, but then to come back and put her down, we’re just super excited about this kid and what she’s capable of,” UH coach Laura Beeman said in a post-game phone interview.
“We watched her grow up before our eyes and now she’s absolutely a rotary player and that’s really exciting for us.”
Perez had a season-high 10 rebounds off the bench, and guard Lily Wahinekapu scored six of her 14 team-best points in UH’s crucial 11-2 third-quarter run when Wahine (8-11, 6-4 ) scored a split on their Big West road trip.
UH held CSUB to 15 points in the second half and stayed tuned despite going without a field goal in the final six minutes.
“It was definitely an emotional game, it was a tough game physically,” said Beeman. “We couldn’t finish tight games. … To be able to do that under the circumstances, I’m just super proud of them and it really just shows who they are.”
UH was again without guard Daejah Phillips, the team’s top scorer earlier in the week, who sat out for a second straight game. The’Bows was also absent guard Jovi Lefotu with an injury sustained in the dying seconds of Thursday’s loss at UC Santa Barbara.
Two days after a 20-point lead evaporated in Santa Barbara, the Wahine were in less than six minutes in the first quarter against CSU Bakersfield when three 3-point shots from Hennie van Schaik gave the Roadrunners a 16-0 run drifted
UH guard Meilani McBee also hit three 3-pointers in the first half, helping the Wahine reduce their lead to 32-26 before halftime.
“We had a timeout (in the first quarter) which was like, ‘Look, we’re better than that,'” said Beeman.
“The girls responded very, very well, and they agreed … and closing that gap gave us a lot of confidence.”
With UH 34-28 behind midway through the third quarter, McKenna Haire hit a 3-pointer to set off the 11-2 run. Haire found Wahinekapu, who cut to the basket for a layup that gave UH their first lead at 37-36 with 1:34 left in the period.
After CSUB tied the game 39-39, UH guard Ashley Thoms scored to propel UH ahead of the final period. UH was no longer behind and Thoms helped defend the lead with a steal from an inbounds game 23 seconds from time after Perez missed her free throws.
“She doesn’t show up in stats often, but some of the stuff she does outside of stats is super impressive,” Beeman said.
Kelsie Imai and Wahinekapu each went 1-on-2 on their trips to the line and Perez crowned the goal with her free throws.
Van Schaik finished the game with 18 points, scoring just one point in the second half in 0-on-5 shooting from the field, and CSUB (4-16, 2-8) lost their fifth straight win.
UH returns home to face UC Davis on Thursday and Cal Poly next Saturday at the SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center.