Allie’s appeal: Navarette quick to climb ranks as Vulcans freshman

  • SHELLY BLUNCK/Tribune-Herald
    Allie Navarette has provided a bright spot for an otherwise frustrating season for UH-Hilo basketball.

Out of state just like she’d always wanted and with college costs out of the way, Allie Navarette was comfortable in her skin when she got here.

And about that skin, or, more to the point, her basketball blood. Navarette is 6-foot with length to spare and solid credentials coming out Southern California, so finding a role with UH-Hilo right of the gate wasn’t all that far-fetched.

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It’s her breakout that’s notable. Her emergence as a go-to Vul was gradual, perhaps inevitable, and its roots are unmistakable.

“We were on a California road trip and I felt super sick,” Navarette recalled. “We were struggling and we were going to play Notre Dame de Namur. I knew somebody had to step. I just felt coming into that game that I was going to do everything to help our team on the court. I think that game was really a turning point.”

No, this is not the way anyone on UH-Hilo’s men’s or women’s teams wanted their campaigns to play out.

But during a season in which both programs have been reeling and injury-riddled, Navarette has been a rock.

Saturday, against Hawaii Pacific, is for saying farewell to the Vulcans’ seniors, but Thursday, against Chaminade, brings one last chance for fans as Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium to get familiar with one of the Pacific West Conference’s best freshman.

“Coming out of high school (Mira Costa in Manhattan Beach, Calif.) all I wanted was to go out of state and try something new,” she said, “and I wanted to get a full-ride (scholarship) so I wouldn’t be a burden to my parents.”

The burden, these days, has been on those defending her.

Need a double-double – talk to Allie.

Scoring in double-digits in 14 consecutive games and reaching 25 three times, she ranks sixth in the PacWest (16.4) in scoring and 11th in rebounding (7.5)

Need a game-clinching free throw – definitely talk to Allie.

She’s the PacWest leader at 87 percent.

Need someone to guard an opposing team’s top post scorer or battle with its top rebounder – that’s becoming Allie’s game as well.

“I’m really enjoying the challenge and it’s helping me to get better,” she said.

Need someone to commiserate with during a season gone awry as the Vuls (6-15, 4-14 PacWest) ride a 10-game losing streak – don’t talk to Allie.

“We’re here to win, not to lose, especially when it’s the sport I love,” she said. “I’m really grateful though to have the teammates and coaches that I’ve had all year.”

Part of Navarette wishes the Vulcans weren’t holding senior day against one of the nation’s hottest teams. The Sharks (23-2, 17-1) have won 19 in a row heading into a home contest Thursday against Azusa Pacific and are ranked third in the West Region.

The Vulcans, meanwhile, have played their last 11 games with just seven available players, and for a few games, eight.

Another part of Navarette, essentially, says: bring it, HPU.

“I enjoy playing them,” she said. “They show us that we need to work hard. It really makes our team better.”

First, the Vulcans get the Silverswords (2-18, 2-16) at 5 p.m. Thursday in what certainly looks like a fine chance for UHH to end its slide. Chaminade beat the Vuls 69-66 in December in Honolulu, which was before Navarette started to assert herself.

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“I’m looking forward to seeing how we stay together,” Navarette. “I know we can start well. I want us to finish strong.”

Either way, she’s just getting going.