For second consecutive year, Sharks defeat Cougars to claim PacWest title
The cliche of history repeating itself is oftentimes overplayed. However, on Saturday night in the Felix Event Center, the narrative was played out to perfection as the Hawai’i Pacific Sharks once again defeated Azusa Pacific in the final of the PacWest tournament.
The Cougars weekend was not full of disappointment. They defeated Fresno Pacific on Friday in the semifinals. Holding only a three-point lead entering the final quarter, APU went on a 21-7 run in the final 10 minutes to escape with the victory. Daylee Hanson was the hero of the game, scoring a season-high 23 points. Certainly, Hanson and the Cougars were hoping to mimic their recent success last night.
Unfortunately, they ran into a Hawai’i Pacific team who went a staggering 22-0 in conference play. Entering Saturday’s matchup, the only squad who held more momentum than the Cougars was the Sharks.
Throughout the first quarter, however, rather than momentum for either side being on display, it was an evenly matched affair. The score was tied twice in the first quarter, and when the quarter ended, the score was tied at 16.
The second quarter started slowly for both offenses. At the midway point, only three baskets were made, giving the Sharks a 21-19 lead with five minutes left. But APU fought back and claimed a 27-25 lead at halftime.
In the second half, the Sharks offense went on a run. Despite only scoring 25 points in the first half, they scored a total of 21 in the third quarter alone. Although they gave up 15 points to the Cougars offense, Hawai’i Pacific entered the final quarter of play with a four-point lead. Ultimately, it was too much for APU to overcome.
The Sharks added 22 more points to their score total in the final 10 minutes of play. Nevertheless, with 6:48 left on the clock, it was only a one-point game as the Cougars entered the fourth with a quick three-point shot by Rachel Bozlee. But an 11-2 run by the Sharks gave Hawai’i a 12 point lead with 1:30 left in the contest, essentially icing the game and handing the Sharks their 25th straight win. It was the second consecutive season in which the Sharks conquered the Cougars in the final game of the tournament.
APU was the more physical team in the paint. They outboarded their opponent 54-40, and when considering points in the paint it also favored the Cougars 34-20. However, turnovers may have been the biggest factor towards the Cougars defeat. They gave up the ball 18 times throughout the 40 minutes, and that resulted in the Sharks acquiring 17 points off turnovers.
Hanson once again had a strong outing, as her 20 points led all scorers in the contest. But it was the guard play from these Sharks that deserves the most credit for their victory. Rivera Starr led the team in scoring, going eight of 16 from the field and scoring 18 points. Also Amy Baum, despite only scoring seven points, was incredibly important towards both the team’s offensive and defensive execution, acquiring eight assists and four steals.
Following the loss, APU will now hope to prepare for the NCAA Division II Tournament which is set to begin next weekend. Although their placement in the tournament is not a guarantee, the team is hoping that this season in which they went 25-5 will be enough to send them to the tournament for the fourth time in five seasons. The bracket will be set at 7 p.m. on NCAA’s official website.