(HPU Athletics) - No. 22 Hawai‘i Pacific University went on a 13-0 run in the last three minutes to win the 2018 PacWest Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament Championship with a 77-71 triumph over Point Loma on Saturday at the CBU Events Center.
The Sharks (26-3) saw a 14-point first half lead evaporate by the fourth quarter as the Sea Lions (19-11) went on top by four-points before the Sharks got a pair of 3-pointers from Gabriella Fotu to retake the lead and start the 13-0 run.
The Sharks now await Sunday’s NCAA Division II selection show on NCAA.com at 5 p.m. HST (10 p.m. EST) to determine who they will face and where they will play in the NCAA Division II Tournament’s West Regional.
“What a game,” said HPU head coach Reid Takatsuka. “I’m so proud of my girls, my team. Point Loma played a great game. We were fortunate enough to come out at the end. Throughout the year it’s not just one person on our team, it could be anyone. And down the stretch tonight Jessi (Reeves) came up with some big shots and Ella (Fotu) hit some big shots and Spencer (Gray) is facilitating the ball and the offense and everything was just clicking.”
The Sharks were led by senior by senior forward Jessi Reeves of Coffs Harbour, Australia/John Paul, who led all scorers with 23 points to go with four rebounds, three steals and a game-high four assists. Senior guard Spencer Gray of Centerville, Ohio/Centerville, collected 18 pints with seven rebounds. Junior guard Samantha Lambrigtsen of Oregon, Ill./Oregon HS and Fotu, a junior forward from Auckland, New Zealand/Rangitoto, each added 12 points, with Lambrigtsen posting a game-high nine rebounds and a blocked shot.
Point Loma was paced by 2018 PacWest Conference Co-Player of the Year Roya Rustamzada with 21 points before fouling out with 4:34 to play. Cara Liggins, who was 3-8 from the 3-point arc, posted 20 points with six rebounds. Grace Brady pulled down nine rebounds and blocked three shots while scoring five points.
The Sharks shot 38 percent from the floor (23-of-60), including 4-of-10 (40 percent) from the 3-point arc. HPU made 27-of-33 (82 percent) from the free throw line. PLNU hit 37 percent from the field (22-of-59), including 23 percent (6-of-26) from the arc. The Sea Lions made 21-of-27 (78 percent) from the charity stripe.
The game appeared to be blow out at the start, as the Sharks went on a 10-0 run to open the game and held Point Loma without a score for 4:58 seconds. All five of the HPU’s starters scored in the opening run that was started by a Marcucci layup and capped by a layup from freshman forward Jessica Harley of Melbourne, Australia/Caulfield Grammar. The Sharks pushed the lead out to 12 on a jumper from Reeves with 54 second left in the period. PLNU made a run to cut it to six before Gray sunk two free throws to put HPU up 18-10 at the break.
HPU used a 6-0 run to start the second, making it an 8-0 extended run, to go up 14 with 8:44 to play on a Lambrigtsen jumper. The teams swapped scores as the Sharks maintained the 14-point advantage with 4:25 to go in the half on a pair of free throws by Reeves. But that was the last time the Sharks enjoyed the big differential. Point Loma got a free throw and later a 3-pointer from Sydney Peterson to start an 8-0 run and cut the lead to six. Marcucci ended the run with a triple before Liggins drove in for a layup as HPU led at the half 33-26.
HPU maintained the advantage through the third quarter, with Point Loma getting two free throws from Yuendie Guridi to pull the Sea Lions within six at 54-48 after three.
The Sea Lions made a push to start the final quarter, using a 14-4 run to wipeout the lead HPU had held since the game’s start and go up 62-60 on a Brady layup with 4:47 remaining. The Sea Lions extended the lead to four with 3:03 to play on a layup and free throw by Liggins to lead 68-64.
HPU answered quickly, with Fotu nailing a 3-pointer to pull within one, then following a steal Fotu buried a second trey to put the Sharks back in the lead for good at 70-68. PLNU then went to fouling and the Sharks got four free throws from Reeves, two from Lambrigtsen and one of two from Gray before allowing a Guridi 3-pointer with two seconds left as the Sharks won the championship 77-71.
It’s the second PacWest Conference Tournament Championship for HPU, who also won in 2015. HPU also won the regular season that year as well, and won the PacWest (with no tournament) in 2010.
Gray was named the Tournament's Most Outstanding Player, while Reeves and Marcucci were selected to the All-PacWest Tournament Team. Joining the HPU trio were Rustamzada and Liggins of Point Loma and Natalie Diaz of Dominican.