The University of Hawaii at Hilo was short on style points Monday at Fresno Pacific. But the Imai sisters came through with big points when the Lady Vulcans needed them most.
Kamie Imai hit an 11-footer on the baseline as the horn sounded Monday as the Lady Vulcans stopped the Sunbirds 54-52 in a women’s college basketball game in Fresno, Calif.
Kirsty Imai scored 16 points to lead UH-Hilo (6-6, 3-3 Pacific West Conference), and the senior guard hit a pull-up jumper that gave her team a one-point the lead with 1:12 left.
“A big shot,” UH-Hilo coach David Kaneshiro said. “Every bit as big as Kamie’s.”
Kamie Imai scored 14 points with 11 rebounds.
Fresno Pacific (0-14, 0-7) led at the half for the first time this season but was denied its first victory.
Keairra White led the Sunbirds with 17 points. She made one of two free throws to tie the game with 1:01 left. After UH-Hilo’s Kirsten Shimizu missed a 3-pointer, White missed a jumper, and Kamie Imai grabbed the rebound to set the stage for her heroics.
“It wasn’t the prettiest of games, but we survived, and it’s not an easy trip down here,” Kaneshiro said.
The coach gave special extra credit to Shimizu (seven points), Jazlyn Afusia (two) and Elise Spain.
While the rest of the team left Hilo on Saturday for the four-game Northern California road trip, Shimizu, Afusia and Spain had a class and didn’t leave until Sunday. Because of a delay at the airport, the trio didn’t arrive at the team hotel until just hours before game time.
“They gutted it out,” Kaneshiro said.
The same can be said of UH-Hilo in general.
Trailing by eight at halftime, Jameia McDuffie (seven points) and Shimzu hit back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game at 35-35 with 14:13 left.
Neither team led by more than three points after that.
Kamie Imai was 7-of-10 from the floor, and Kirsty Imai was 5-of-8 for UH-Hilo, which shot 42.6 percent.
UH-Hilo’s bench was outscored 33-8, but the Vulcans held Fresno Pacific to 34.5 percent shooting.
“We didn’t play our best game, but we found a way to win,” Kaneshiro said.
Fresno Pacific 109, UH-Hilo 88: Guards Matt Samuels and John Taylor scored 25 and 24, respectively, as the host Sunbirds shot better than 56 percent and slashed their way to a season-high point total.
“They are very, very good,” UH-Hilo coach Jeff Law said. “What they do well is play a good street game. We just could not stay in front of them defensively.”
Senior guard CJ Brown was a bright spot for UH-Hilo (3-11, 1-5), scoring 18 points with eight assists and no turnovers. Senior forward Mike Melonas scored 17 points with six rebounds, but UH-Hilo was beaten on the boards 47-33.
Fresno Pacific (9-6, 4-3) grabbed control early and never let up. It went ahead 38-26 on Trevon Clayton’s 3-pointer with 7:17 left in the first half, and its lead was never below double digits again. The Sunbirds led by 30 on two occasions in the second half.
Guard/forward Malcolm Griffith scored 21 points, 6-foot-7 Antonio Credit tallied 12 points and collected 10 rebounds, and Clayton grabbed 12 rebounds.
UH-Hilo shot 17 of 33 in the first half but finished at 43.1 percent, including 9 of 28 from 3-point range.
“It was frustrating because they were taking us to the hole,” Law said. “They were quick and smart. They are riding a high right now, and we couldn’t stop them. But I think we could have done a couple of things better.”
Senior forward Kiel Myers added 14 points, and junior guard Lucas Swanson came off the bench to score 11.