The Beach couldn’t come back for a second time, losing to Hawaii in the semifinals of the Big West Tournament 67-62 Friday afternoon in Henderson, Nevada.
After a dramatic win over UC Riverside on Wednesday where LBSU went on a 14-point run in the fourth quarter, a comeback again seemed possible. But Hawaii showed poise, sinking free throws at 77.8% to hold onto the victory and went to the line seven times in the final quarter.
“Even tonight we did a great job of fighting our way back within one possession, and it just didn’t roll our way,” head coach Jeff Cammon said. “It’s tough when you are going into a fourth quarter and you are down 10 points just like the other night and we just couldn’t do it.”
At halftime, the two teams were knotted at 21-21, however, Hawaii edged The Beach in the third quarter before closing out the game in the fourth.
LBSU had effective games out of redshirt junior guard Kianna Hamilton-Fisher and senior guard Ma’Qhi Berry scoring 17 and 13 points respectively.
Senior guard Courtney Murphy was also involved in hitting four threes and shooting a perfect 3/3 from beyond the arc in the fourth quarter. She was responsible for more than half of the makes from three for the team who only shot seven total.
Hawaii was the more physical team though, dominating the boards and drawing fouls when it mattered most. They grabbed 10 more boards than LBSU and were the better team in the paint.
Another difference was the scoring struggles from redshirt senior guard Tori Harris who shot 2-14 from the field and was 0-6 from three.
From beyond the arc, Hawaii was the more efficient team making the same amount as LBSU but on four fewer attempts.
“Momentum is a strange thing. I don’t think they hit a lot of shots I just think they hit timely shots,” Cammon said. “It seemed like they hit 15 threes but they hit seven and we hit seven.”
Defensively, The Beach had active hands forcing 18 turnovers but it wasn’t enough to take any significant control over the game with the largest lead for them only ever being four.
Long Beach will finish the year 23-9 and miss out on an opportunity to play in both the Big West final and March Madness.
It was an impressive regular season for the team that saw The Beach dominate the individual awards.
“It’s a very special group and they’ll be remembered for a lot of things they accomplished this year,” Cammon said.
The program will look to reset next year with a new cast, as it prepares to lose seven seniors with key players Berry, Harris and Murphy all playing potentially their last games for The Beach depending on the WNIT bracket that will be announced on Sunday.
“Ma’Qhi, Lauren Green young ladies that have been staples and cornerstones to the progress of this culture and program,” Cammon said. “You add Tori and Malia [Bambrick] and Courtney who just fit like a glove. They were here for a year but you would have thought they were here for four or five years they are just great human beings.”