With a chance to make history and punch a ticket into the championship game of a tournament it has hosted annually since 2009, the University of Hawaii men’s basketball team seized the moment and prevailed over Washington State 62-51 at SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center on Friday night.

Hawaii improves to 8-3 for the 2022 season and will face SMU in the championship game on Christmas Day at 3:30 p.m., while Washington State drops to 5-7 and will face Utah State in the third place game.

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After getting past Pepperdine in Thursday’s first round matchup, the Rainbow Warriors started sluggishly, as the Cougars led by as much as 18-10 with nine minutes left in the first half.

But with another balanced offensive effort and stifling defense, the Rainbow Warriors earned their signature win of the 2022-2023 season behind Samuta Avea’s 19 points and JoVon McClanahan’s 16 points, six rebounds and game-high four assists, one night after McClanahan had a career-high of 17 points against Pepperdine. Additionally, freshman center Mor Seck gave UH a sizable lift off the bench with six rebounds in the first half.

TJ Bamba had a game-high 19 points on 6-for-18 shooting for Washington State, which was held to a subpar 18-for-59 day from the field as a team.

Though it has hosted the tournament annually since 2009, with the exception of 2020, Hawaii has never played a Diamond Head Classic championship game. That will change on Sunday when the Rainbow Warriors take on the Mustangs in a battle of former old WAC foes.