Emotional HPU women’s basketball team copes with disappointing end to stellar 2019-2020 campaign

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Members of the 2019-2020 HPU women’s basketball team

HONOLULU (KHON) — A historic season for the Hawaii Pacific women’s basketball team became even more historic on Thursday by coming to an end.

On Thursday morning, the NCAA canceled all of its winter and spring championships due to concerns with COVID-19. The nationally-ranked No. 3 Sharks, who were 29-1 with a 25-game winning streak, were set to host the NCAA Division II West Regional from Friday to Monday. Last Sunday, the team was informed that it would be hosting for the first time in school history.

But just a few days later, the tournament became one of many events canceled across the nation.

Members of the team met at the Shark Tank on Thursday. After posing for team photos at midcourt, an emotional team meeting took place where coaches and players exchanged tearful hugs.

“It’s really hard to process at the moment. I can’t even begin to explain how I feel right now,” senior star guard Starr Rivera said. “But I’m completely grateful for this opportunity that Coach Reid (Takatsuka) has given me and thankful for my teammates. I mean, this is the best college experience anyone could have.”

Rivera finishes her senior season with 583 points, good for a team-high average of 18.1 per game. She also dished out 3.1 assists per game and pulled down 4.2 boards per contest.

“After all this time, I’ve been preparing and after practices, I’d go out for at least a couple of hours to get an extra practice, just to be ready as I possibly could,” Rivera had said of her preparation for the now-canceled games. “To think that it all ends now, it’s crazy.

“To have our whole tournament canceled is completely devastating. I feel like we had a really good chance coming into this year. I feel like our team was ready for the next challenge.”

Takatsuka was also shocked about the news but more so feels sympathy towards her players, particularly Rivera, who was the only senior on the team.

“It’s a weird feeling because it’s just kind of disappointment right now,” Takatsuka said. “Again, it’s more disappointment for them, the girls. Obviously, it was the first time for us to host, No. 1 seed in the region, super exciting time for our program.

“That’s the disappointing thing is that from the standpoint that we’re losing Starr this year. She’s our only senior and to see how far we could have taken this is probably the biggest disappointment.”

NCAA tournament banners and signs were spread out across the arena. Also in the Shark Tank were NCAA tournament game balls and a Western Regional trophy.

The Sharks being in the gym from 3 to 4 p.m. on Thursday was originally meant to be used as their slot to practice for their Friday game against Cal Poly Pomona, which was originally scheduled for 5 p.m.

On Thursday, the Sharks were finished with their meetings at approximately 3:30. With half an hour left in the gym to themselves, the team played shooting games with the game balls. It was the last time the 2019-2020 team would share the floor together.

“This team’s extremely special — 29-1 and I think we could’ve gotten a lot further,” Takatsuka said.

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