Imani Perez is resilient at the line late as Wahine rally to win
Jan. 29—Along with her rebounding total, Hawaii center Imani Perez's ability to bounce back at the free-throw line helped seal the Rainbow Wahine basketball team's 51-47 comeback win over Cal State Bakersfield on Saturday.
Along with her rebounding total, Hawaii center Imani Perez's ability to bounce back at the free-throw line helped seal the Rainbow Wahine basketball team's 51-47 comeback win over Cal State Bakersfield on Saturday.
Perez's work on the boards helped the Wahine rally from a 13-point first quarter deficit to take the lead in the third quarter. They were protecting a one-point edge with 28.1 seconds left when the 6-foot-4 freshman went to the line and missed two free throws.
The Wahine managed to hold off the Roadrunners for the moment, but held a still tenuous 49-47 lead when Perez was again fouled with 11 seconds remaining. This time she calmly drained both to help a shorthanded UH lineup grind out a win at the Icardo Center in Bakersfield.
"I know she missed a couple free throws, but then to come back and knock them down, we're just super excited about that kid and what she can do, " UH coach Laura Beeman said in a postgame phone interview.
"We've seen her grow up before our eyes and now she's absolutely a rotation player and that's really exciting for us."
Perez set a season high with 10 rebounds off the bench and guard Lily Wahinekapu scored six of her team-high 14 points in UH's pivotal 11-2 third-quarter run as the Wahine (8-11, 6-4 ) earned a split of their Big West road trip.
UH held CSUB to 15 points in the second half and hung on despite going without a field goal for the final six minutes.
"It definitely was an emotional game, it was a hard game physically, " Beeman said. "We had not been able to close out games that had been close. ... To be able to do this in the circumstances, I'm just super proud of them and it really just shows who they are."
UH was again without guard Daejah Phillips, the team's leading scorer entering the week, who sat out for a second straight game. The'Bows were also missing guard Jovi Lefotu due to an injury suffered in the final seconds of Thursday's loss at UC Santa Barbara.
Two days after seeing a 20-point lead evaporate in Santa Barbara, the Wahine trailed by 13 less than six minutes into the first quarter against CSU Bakersfield when three 3-pointers by Hennie van Schaik powered the Roadrunners to a 16-0 run.
UH guard Meilani McBee also hit three 3-pointers in the first half and helped the Wahine cut their deficit to 32-26 going into halftime.
"We had timeout (in the first quarter ) that was, 'Look, we're better than this, ' " Beeman said.
"The girls responded very, very well, and they agreed ... and to close that gap gave us a lot of confidence."
With UH down 34-28 midway through the third quarter, McKenna Haire hit a 3-pointer to trigger the 11-2 run. Haire found Wahinekapu cutting to the basket for a layup that gave UH its first lead at 37-36 with 1 :34 left in the period.
After CSUB tied the game 39-39, UH guard Ashley Thoms scored on a drive to push UH ahead going into the final period. UH didn't trail again and Thoms helped protect the lead with a steal off an inbounds play with 23 seconds left after Perez missed her free throws.
"She doesn't show up on the stat line often, but some of the stuff she does off the stat line are super impressive, " Beeman said.
Kelsie Imai and Wahinekapu each went 1-for-2 on their trips to the line and Perez capped the scoring with her free throws.
Van Schaik finished with a game-high 18 points, but scored just one point in the second half on 0-for-5 shooting from the field and CSUB (4-16, 2-8 ) lost its fifth straight.
UH returns home to face UC Davis on Thursday and Cal Poly next Saturday at SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center.