Saturday, February 17, 2001
With its road victory over Hawaii Pacific last night, the Hawaii-Hilo men's basketball team swatted away the proverbial monkey that had been on the program's back for almost seven full seasons.
of winning season,
loses its monkey
By Brandon Lee
Special to the Star-Bulletin
The Vulcans' 83-79 win before 405 fans at the Blaisdell Arena assured them of their first winning season in seven campaigns, moving their record to 14-10 overall and 9-6 in the Pacific West Conference with three games left.
Perhaps just as important, the win also kept Hilo's outside chance at winning the Pacific Division and earning a potential invite to the postseason alive. The Vulcans will likely have to win their remaining three contests for this to happen, including a rematch with the Sea Warriors (10-14, 5-10) at the Blaisdell tonight at 7:30.
"This was a very important game," Hilo coach Jeff Law said. "(The winning season) feels great.
"I'm not realizing exactly the full extent of it yet because we do have three games to go, and a very tough game tomorrow night. We're proud, but we still have some work to do."
Shooting guard Alan Thomas was one of four Vulcans to score in double figures, leading the way with a game-high 28 points and team-high nine rebounds. Forward B.J. Rogers chipped in 16 points, while guards Scott Prather and Stanley Ibia added 15 and 10, respectively.
"We told each other that our playoffs start right now, because we can't afford to lose any more games," Thomas said. "That was one of our goals -- to get a winning season. We accomplished that. Now we've got to take it a step further. We want bigger and better things."
HPU also had four players in double figures, with shooting guard Nick Spajic leading the way with 24 points to go along with a game-high 10 rebounds.
In the second half, the Vulcans opened with a 14-3 run to build their biggest lead of the night at nine points, with 17:41 left to play.
The lead was at seven with 12:40 left when the Sea Warriors countered with an 11-3 run of their own for their first lead since early in the first half, at 61-60.
HPU had a 63-60 advantage with 6:44 left when Thomas slashed through a lane in the Sea Warrior zone for a layup and was fouled. He converted the free throw to tie the game.
HPU jumped in front twice briefly after that, but guard David LaQua's 3-pointer at 5:00 put Hilo back up, 69-68. It was a lead the Vulcans never surrendered, as Thomas and others iced the game at the free-throw line.
In the first half, the Sea Warriors were down by as many as eight points, as they shot 34 percent from the field, including just 3-of-16 from 3-point range. They stayed in the game by hustling for 10 offensive rebounds in the period and rallied before intermission to trail only by two at 34-32.
Unlike Hilo, Hawaii Pacific is playing primarily just for pride in its three remaining games, as the Sea Warriors will finish below .500 for the second consecutive year after winning seasons in each of coach Tony Sellitto's first 11 years with the team.
"Ever since I've been coaching, one thing I've always stressed is personal pride," Sellitto said. "Personal pride is what carries every single athlete at every single level. Getting the players up for the remaining games shouldn't be an issue."
BYUH 80, Chaminade 77, OT: At McCabe Gym, the Seasiders, led by 18 points and 11 rebounds from Kerry Hendrickson, needed an extra period to dispatch the Silverswords.
Sophomore center Scott Salisbury rebounded a missed free throw and threw up a last-second shot as time expired to give the Seasiders a three-point lead.