UH-Hilo men’s hoops set for PacWest tourney, women’s squad left out

ANTHONY AKAU/UH-Hilo Sports Information Nadjrick Peat goes for a layup during UH-Hilo's win against HPU on Saturday. Both the Vulcans and Sharks will play in the PacWest conference championship, which begins Thursday in southern California.

UH-Hilo’s men’s basketball team is set for the Pacific West Conference tournament this week, while the women’s team fell short in the standings and was left out.

Both teams notched wins over HPU on Saturday at home — and had the stars aligned perfectly, the wins over the Sharks would have moved UH-Hilo’s men from No. 5 to No. 3 and the women from No. 7 to No. 6. The standings did not shift as needed, so both squads remained in the same positions that they were in before Saturday.


The men’s and women’s PacWest tournaments will tip off Thursday at Point Loma Nazarene’s Golden Gymnasium in San Diego, Calif — continuing on Friday with the finals set for Saturday.

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By beating HPU, the Vulcans could have jumped up to the No. 4 seed — giving them an advantage in the first round. However, in addition to beating the sharks, UH-Hilo also needed No. 4 Biola to lose to No. 9 Dominican on Saturday.

The Eagles won, tying for No. 4 with the Vulcans as both teams ended the regular season 12-8. The PacWest’s tiebreaker rules kept Biola at No. 4 and dropped UHH to No. 5 — setting the pair for a matchup in the first round.

The Eagles and Vulcans are 1-1 against each other this season — each notching slim victories, as Biola won 75-73 at home in late December and UH-Hilo also defended its home court in early February, 58-54.

The pair also faced off in the first round of the PacWest tournament last season — when the No. 5 Eagles defeated the No. 4 Vulcans 79-51 at McCabe Gymnasium in Honolulu.

Defending champion and No. 1 seed Point Loma (15-5), and No. 2 Academy of Art (15-5) received first-round byes. If the Vulcans beat Biola, they will face PLNU in the final four. UH-Hilo is 1-1 against the Sea Lions this season, losing to them 74-71 in early January on the road, then beating them 75-71 in OT two weeks later at home.

On the other side of the bracket, No. 3 HPU (13-7) and No. 6 Azusa Pacific (10-10) will clash in the first round — with the winner facing ART U in the final four.

In his fourth season leading the Vulcans, head coach Kaniela Aiona will now take them to the PacWest tourney for the third straight time.

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The Vulcans’ women’s squad finished 10-10 in PacWest play and 13-13 overall, just outside of the playoff bubble at No. 7 — as the top six teams received tournament berths.

UH-Hilo needed to beat HPU in order to have a shot at the playoffs — and it did, defeating the Sharks 63-54 — but the Vulcans also needed either Biola or Concordia (which tied for No. 5) to suffer a loss in one of their final matchups.

Both teams won their Saturday matchups and finished 11-9. Biola beat No. 4 Dominican 57-46 and Concordia rolled over No. 8 Westmont 82-65.

Following this season, UH-Hilo’s women’s team’s only graduate will be fifth-year senior Kamalu Kamakwiwoole, an O‘ahu native who carved out a successful two seasons with the Vulcans after transferring from Utah State in 2022. Last season, Kamakawiwoole recorded a total of 32 blocks to set a new program single-season record — also getting named to the All Pac-West Third Team.

“I think (Kamakawiwoole’s) leadership played a big part in the continuous development and improvement of the team,” Vulcans 14th-year head coach David Kaneshiro said in a UH-Hilo press release. “She’s very soft spoken so if you’re not with the team you wouldn’t know it, but she gives a lot of confidence. She’s always talking to teammates about how much she believes in them so I think her leadership had a lot to do with the improvement.”

No. 1 Azusa Pacific (20-0) and No. 2 Fresno Pacific (14-6) received first-round byes in the PacWest tourney and will begin play on Friday in the final four.

On Thursday, No. 4 Dominican (12-8) and No. 5 Concordia (11-9) will face off — with the winner going on to play against Azusa. In the second matchup, No. 6 Biola (11-9) and No. 3 Point Loma (13-7) will fight for a chance to face FPU in the semifinals.

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