Hawaii Pacific WBB wins PacWest Tournament Championship

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SAN RAFAEL, Calif. – Freshman Amy Baum scored 24 points as defending tournament champion Hawai’i Pacific University made it back-to-back titles as HPU defeated No. 23 Azusa Pacific 75-68 to win the 2019 PacWest Conference Tournament on Saturday at the Conlan Center.

The Sharks (23-8) earned the PacWest’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament as they won their second consecutive tournament championship and third in the last five years. The No. 23 Cougars (25-5) suffered their first loss in eight games, dating back to the Sharks 81-72 win at the Neil Blaisdell Center on Jan. 30.

Baum, the PacWest Conference Freshman of the Year, scored seven of her game-high 24 points in the fourth quarter and grabbed seven rebounds. Sophomore All-PacWest Conference Third Team guard Alysha Marcucci added 16 points with four rebounds, an assist and a steal, while junior Starr Rivera of Honolulu/Roosevelt came off the bench with 14 points and two steals. Another outstanding performance came from sophomore McKenzie Alton of Sammamish, Wash./Bellarmine Prep who just missed a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds – with five points and seven boards coming in the second half.

Azusa Pacific was led by Daylee Hanson with 21 points and seven rebounds, while sister Savanna Hanson double-doubled with 18 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. Laura Pranger added 11 points with eight rebounds, five blocked shots and four steals.

The Sharks connected on 23-of-63 (37 percent) of their shots from the floor, but only 4-of-23 (17 percent) from the 3-point arc. HPU was 25-of-35 (71 percent) from the foul line. APU was held to 20-of-57 (35 percent) from the floor, including 6-of-15 (40 percent) from the arc. The Cougars hit 22-of-34 (65 percent) of their shots from the charity stripe. APU outrebounded HPU 45-41, but the Sharks turned the ball over 15 times to the Cougars 21 and outscored APU 25-10 in points off turnovers.

The Sharks trailed only twice in the contest – and that was in the first five minutes of the contest. HPU and Azusa traded scores with APU going up three at 5-2 before Alton hit a jumper and Rivera followed another to put HPU up 6-5 with 5:20 to play in the opening frame. It was part of an 8-0 run that put the Sharks up by five.

APU answered with a Pranger layup and a 3-pointer by Rachel Bozlee to tie the game at 10-all with 3:03 in the quarter. That’s when the Sharks attacked. Senior Samanthan Lambrigtsen of Oregon, Ill./Oregon HS nailed a jumper, Baum got a steal, a layup and a free throw for a traditional 3-point play. Baum owned the next few possessions as well with two more free throws and a 3-pointer for eight straight points and Marcucci buried a jumper for a 12-0 run that the Cougars could never get over. Daylee Hanson added a layup in the final seconds of the first to end the quarter with HPU up 22-12.

The Sharks maintained their advantage in the second and reached their highest lead of the day at the 4:27 mark, with Marcucci hitting a runner in the paint for a 33-18 lead. The Cougars chipped away at the Sharks lead and added a 7-0 run trimming the lead to four on a Bozlee jumper with 47 second left in the half.

However, Rivera answered with a triple of her own to send the Sharks in at halftime up 40-33.

APU again got within four in the third quarter and the Sharks saw Lambrigtsen, an All-PacWest Third Team selection, go down with an injury. HPU rallied with an 8-1 run capped by a layup from Rivera to lead by 12. The Sharks carried a 59-48 lead into the third quarter break.

HPU rebuilt its lead to 12 with 6:29 to play in the fourth quarter as Marcucci hit one-of-two free throws. The No. 23 Cougars didn’t cash in, and fought back to within five twice in the last three minutes.

HPU didn’t waver, and hit free throws down the stretch to retake an 11-point 74-63 lead with 31 seconds to play. APU hit a 3 and a jumper late, but the Sharks added two-of-four free throws to claim their third straight NCAA Tournament bid and fourth in the last five seasons in winning the PacWest Tournament Championship.

HPU senior Breanna Mackenzie of Melbourne, Australia/Box Hill was named the Tournament MVP, while Baum and Marcucci were also selected to the All-PacWest Tournament Team. APU’s Savannah Hanson and Pranger were also chosen to the squad.

The Sharks, who now have tournament titles in 2015, 2018 and 2019, wait for Sunday when the NCAA announces the Women’s Division II Tournament Bracket on NCAA.com. The committee will reveal pairings and regional locations during the announcement at 4 p.m. HST (10 p.m. EDT).

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