On senior night, ’Bows came up short ... handed
SOMEHOW, miraculously, incredibly, incredulously, after all that had happened, at the end the Rainbows still had a tiny sliver of a chance. The score was 51-48, and Louisiana Tech's Marcus Elliott stood at the line for the point that would make the lead four, officially out of reach, 3.5 seconds left. Somehow, miraculously, incredibly, incredulously, after all that had happened, it was mathematically possible, and a few still believed.
"Overtime!" a man said.
"He's gotta miss this!" a cheerleader said.
He did, and Hawaii rebounded. Julian Sensley launched a prayer, a three-quarter-court 3. Wide left. The buzzer sounded.
And it was over.
In the other corner, the floor wipers asked Tech's Paul Millsap, who had 23 rebounds, for his autograph.
And it was over.
It was just over. That's all.
Bob Nash's furious towel waving couldn't do it. The fans' fervor, believing, screaming, unwilling to let the 'Bows lose, their noise couldn't do it. Deonte Tatum's heroics, and Chris Botez's hustle, and Sensley's finally deciding to put the team on his shoulders and Matt Lojeski looking (and feeling) as if he'd gone 10 rounds in a heavyweight fight -- none of it was enough, last night, in that second half. It was over. They were empty. Pau. Nothing left.
"Ran out of bodies," Riley Wallace said when it was done.
The 'Bows were out of gas, and they were out of guys and they were out of luck. It was over. It was awful. Nothing worked. Nothing.
It always seems that dreams end suddenly, with a start, the sound of an alarm clock, and then you're awake. Wondering if it ever really happened. Just a vague feeling for the rest of the day.
But no, this one took a full 20 minutes, an agonizing 20 minutes, an exhausting, sickening, aggravating, heartbreaking half. A 12-points-in-a-half 20 minutes. A more-than-17-minutes-between-baskets 20 minutes. A 13-percent-shooting-second-half 20 minutes.
No, they felt everything.
No, they knew.
It was over.
It was awful. It was like a movie, like it was in slow-motion, like you could see something bad coming and there was nothing you could do:
They lost an 11-point cushion in that span. They were out of everything. Guys, gas, bounces, luck. After a season's worth of effort, they were empty. After losing players all season, it all added up. After winning seven of their last eight games to put themselves in this position, this was when it would all run out. Nothing worked. Nothing.
It had started so promisingly, last night. Even with the news that UH's top inside guy, Ahmet Gueye, was out for the year after coming down wrong on a practice dunk. Yes, it was over before it started. It was a dark and stormy night.
No Gueye against Millsap. There was less than little hope.
But then the 'Bows came out firing. Tatum was determined and Lojeski dunked and Botez was everywhere. And the scene was set for another Hiram Thompson Miracle. After saving UH in a similar circumstance earlier this season, the little-used freshman scored six points in 6 minutes in the first half last night, and it felt like the dome was going to come down.
Thompson hit a long 2. He passed to Sensley, who fed Botez for a layup -- Showtime! Thompson hit the last shot of the half, the ball swishing amid the final ticks, and the 'Bows were up by 11. It was on.
And then they came back out.
And it was over.
It was awful. Ugly. Shots clanged. Passes went awry. Rebounds slipped away. More shots missed. No matter what they did, nothing would work.
"We called everything," Wallace would say.
"Just couldn't hit a shot," Sensley would say.
"We asked them to do a lot with a little," Wallace would say.
They fought. They scrapped. Sensley had 10 rebounds. Lojeski was treated for a cut under his eye, then met Millsap in a spectacular collision in midair, and lost. Hard.
To the end, even when everyone's game had abandoned him, they fought.
"We're going to be the same Rainbow Warrior team we were in the season," Botez would promise of their play the rest of the year.
We'll see. They head to Reno, Nev., for the Western Athletic Conference tournament to play New Mexico State. After this. Losing this way on senior night. After having played like this. Before, postseason was a dream. Now it would be a miracle, thanks to this loss.
"We needed this win tonight to prove we could win without Ahmet Gueye," Wallace said. Instead, it caught up to them. Everything caught up to them.