Wahine play Aggies in home finale
Seniors say goodbye tonight vs. N.M. State
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Anyone care for a possible Western Athletic Conference tournament preview?
When the Hawaii women's basketball team (12-16, 6-9 WAC) challenges New Mexico State (20-8, 10-5 WAC) during senior night at the Stan Sheriff Center, the Rainbow Wahine face a potential tournament quarterfinal foe Wednesday in Las Cruces, N.M.
Seniors Amy Kotani, Saundra Cariaga, Tanya Smith, Iwona Zagrobelna, and Shannon Nishi will be honored after their final home game. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.
A Hawaii win will secure the sixth seed in the tournament, while an Aggies win gives them the third seed.
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GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Shannon Nishi, left, Tanya Smith, Iwona Zagrobelna, Saundra Cariaga and Amy Kotani make up the Rainbow Wahine senior class which will be honored after tonight's game.
You know senior night isn't just another game when the distinct possibility of a Tanya Smith 3-point attempt emerges.
The five seniors on the Hawaii women's basketball team -- Amy Kotani, Saundra Cariaga, Smith, Iwona Zagrobelna, and Shannon Nishi -- appear for the final time as players at the Stan Sheriff Center when the Rainbow Wahine (12-16, 6-9 Western Athletic Conference) close their home schedule against New Mexico State at 7 p.m.
Smith, a center, is trying to stay focused on her on-court performance and helping the Wahine to their fourth win in five games, despite joking about her career 0-for-1 shooting from beyond the arc. She leads the WAC with 19 double-doubles, but making a long-range shot is still on the Australian's to-do list.
"I try not to think in depth too much, overanalyze my game," said Smith, whose family is visiting from Sydney. "Whenever that happens, I end up playing horribly."
Cariaga is doing a pretty good job of taking her final home performance in stride, and doesn't expect to tweak any facets of her game.
"It's just another game. That's how I think about it," the versatile 2004 Kealakehe graduate said. "I'm not going to go 'Oh my God,' do things I'm not going to do, exert myself. Just do what I've been doing with the team. I'm not going to try to go all out with a big bang. That would be cool, but whatever happens, happens."
The Wahine are approaching things as though they'll play a full slate of three more games in next week's Western Athletic Conference tournament in Las Cruces, N.M.
Two of the seniors, Nishi and Zagrobelna, are unable to suit up against the Aggies after suffering season-ending knee injuries. They'll be courtside, though, cheering on their teammates.
Nishi, a family resources major, is proud of her fellow seniors -- particularly fellow walk-on guard Kotani, who eventually vaulted to the starting lineup -- and remained optimistic this season despite suffering an ACL injury before WAC play began.
"I'll definitely miss the camaraderie, I love being a part of the team," the Mid-Pacific Institute graduate said. "I'll miss the games. I know I'll see the girls still, throughout."
The 5-foot-2 Kotani, who describes herself as Nishi's "partner in crime," joked that she wants to throw down a 360-degree dunk in her last outing at the Sheriff. The Moanalua alum acknowledged team senior nights have been "pretty emotional" in previous years.
"There's more to people than just basketball, you know," said Kotani, an accounting major. "They're great people."
Both she and Nishi plan to stay in Hawaii after graduating this year, while Smith will return to Australia with a fashion merchandising degree before a possible trip to Europe to play professionally -- also what Zagrobelna, of Poland, intends to do after rehabilitating her knee and grabbing her economics diploma.
"I haven't been home for three years, so I have to build my new life, go back to Europe, and find some team to play on," Zagrobelna said. "It's kind of scary. (But) I will remember a great team, great friends. I will remember our victory at LaTech (in 2007)."
Cariaga plans to complete her basketball career tonight and start a new chapter of her life.
"I feel like these are a bunch of ladies that I've grown really close friendships (with), and will always be there no matter what, 10, 20, 30 years down the road," Cariaga said.
Coach Jim Bolla cited all of the players' commitment to academics, and encouraged fans to get out and support the players in their final home game.
"Senior night here is probably the most unique of anywhere in the country," Bolla said. "Just because of how the community comes out and embraces the players with the leis and ceremonies. When we recruit we talk about senior night as very unique, very special."