Page 2 From The Tournament: Redemption...Rainbow Style
During the first quarter, the UC Davis coaching staff felt the game getting away. An assistant told forward Morgan Bertsch that they didn’t want Hawaii to dictate the pace.
“We need a spark - that’s you,” she instructed, before Bertsch subbed in.
But by halftime, the game would be out of the Aggies’ hands completely. In the final game of the 2016 Big West Women’s Basketball Championship Tournament, No. 1 seed Hawai'i set a blistering pace and the fourth-seeded Aggies couldn’t keep up. Hawai'i earned its first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 1998 and the Rainbow Wahine’s first since re-entering the Big West Conference with a 78-59 win on Saturday at Honda Center.
“We have believed in our process not from the beginning, but from a point where we all committed and continued to work through that process,” Hawaii head coach Laura Beeman said. “And that process has paid dividends for us so we’re very, very pleased to finish like this.”
The ‘Bows previously won the tournament as a member of the Big West in 1996, before leaving for the WAC the following year. For Hawai'i it was a dose of redemption as it fell in last year's Tourament final to CSUN.
“We were in this game [last year] and we got the result we didn’t want or expect,” Hawaii senior guard Ashleigh Karatiana said. “This year, we were more prepared and we got the results we wanted.”
Karatiana was named the tournament MVP while forward Destiny King was also named to the all-tournament team.
For Karatiana, it validated her decision return for her senior season, despite back injuries that she was dealing with.
“This is what i came back for,” Karatiana said. “This is why I made the decision to come back and this is why Coach B asked me to come back.”
UC Davis was down just 15-12 after the first quarter but the ‘Bows made five straight shots to start the second. They made 11 field goals in the second quarter, mostly in transition, exploding for 25 points. In the third, when the Aggies began to crowd the paint the ‘Bows went to the outside hitting four threes, increasing the lead by as much as 20.
“I think historically over the season the third quarter, that’s probably been our hardest thing,” Karatiana said. “That has been the worst quarter all year. So we made it a point to not do that again. We made sure that we came out with a push and kept it going.”
The ‘Bows were able to create chances using their defense in order to push the ball ahead into transition, working inside-out. Hawai'i outrebounded Davis 47-29 and outscored them 50-34 in the paint.
“If our offense can become our best defense when our defense is already very, very good, we knew that we could get them back on their heels a little bit,” Beeman said. “The game plan was absolutely to get boards, which we did, to push tempo and really take care of the ball.”
Bertsch was a that spark the Aggies needed all week, averaging nearly 20 points per game and being named to the All-Tournament team. But Bertsch could only do so much, as the ‘Bows' speed overwhelmed the Aggies.
Senior Alyson Doherty was also named to the all-tournament team and senior Celia Marfone scored six points and pulled down five boards in her final game as an Aggie.
“Those two have poured themselves into this program,” UC Davis head coach Jennifer Gross said. “When you talk about Aggie pride, it kind of takes a while for our student athletes to know what those words me. As a former student-athlete and coach at UC Davis, those words are special to me and those two epitomize Aggie pride, They are so selfless, they will do anything that the team needs.”
Long Beach State’s Raven Benton and UC Riverside’s Brittany Crain were also honored with all-tournament accolades. A crowd of 1,415 was on hand for the women’s action.