Bringing Back Wahine Glory Days

UH Rainbow Wahine head coach Laura Beeman

UH Rainbow Wahine head coach Laura Beeman

It’s been quite a year for the University of Hawaii Rainbow Wahine basketball team. For the first time in many seasons, there is talk of a possible conference title and perhaps a trip to the NCAA tournament.

First-year head coach Laura Beeman has molded a team of veterans and newcomers, with Kamilah Jackson Martin playing big, aided by local girls ShawnaLei Kuehu, Kalei Adolpho, Vicky Tagalicod and many others.

“I think she’s done a great job,” says Vince Goo, Hawaii’s legendary former head women’s basketball coach. Goo is recovering from hip replacement surgery right now, but has been to a number of Wahine games this season. “I’ve been to most of them. It’s getting pretty exciting,” he says of Hawaii’s chances of post-season down the stretch. “You don’t want your emotions to take over. It comes down to how you handle the situation.”

Goo knows a thing or two about the post-season. He coached the Wahine to five NCAA appearances and five WNIT appearances. He calls the NCAA tournament win in 1990 his greatest post-season memory.

“It had to be the win in Montana,” he says. “Basketball is a big deal there, and when you win in front of 10,000 fans, it’s really something.”

The Wahine – featuring Hawaii’s all-time leading scorer Judy Mosley, plus Ayesha Brooks, Tondi Redden, and local girls Fran Villarmia and Kalei Namohala – were 25 and 3 that season, but seeded ninth against eighth-seeded Montana. The Lady Grizzlies played host in basketball-crazed Missoula.

“When we came to town, everybody knew who we were,” Goo recalls. “When we went to the supermarket, they were all talking to us about the game.”

Shawna-Lei Kuehu UH Sports Media Relations photos

Shawna-Lei Kuehu UH Sports Media Relations photos

There’s a story that’s made the rounds over the years that when the Wahine got to their team hotel after the 3,000-plus mile journey from Manoa, the sign outside said, “Go Lady Griz, Beat the Bows.” Point guard Fran Villarmia, who had been a star at Aiea High, took notice and allegedly climbed up the sign pole before daybreak the next morning, changing it to, “Go Bows, beat the Lady Griz.”

She knew what she was talking about. “It was a sellout and a tremendous atmosphere,” Goo recalls. “The kids played really well.”

Brooks led the way with 24 points, and Mosley controlled the middle with 16 rebounds as the Wahine whipped their hosts 83-78. A couple of days later, despite a 28-point effort by Mosley, the Wahine’s post-season ended with a loss to eventual national champion Stanford.

Goo and other Wahine fans are hoping that this year’s Hawaii team can provide similar post-season magic. The 2013 version of the Wahine end the regular season by hosting Cal State Northridge March 2, UC Riverside March 7 and Cal-State Fullerton March 9 at Stan Sheriff Center before leaving for the Big West Tournament in Anaheim the following week.

“It’s like getting ready for a big boxing match,” Goo says. “You want to hit your peak on game day.”

During this monumental stretch run, the Wahine will take it one game day at a time.

Let the memories begin again.