It’s that time of the year again–time to dance. March Madness is even more special this year as the Rainbow Warriors and Rainbow Wahine qualified to play against the best basketball teams in the country. In a span of about 72 hours, the Rainbow Wahine scored redemption in a 78-59 plastering of UC Davis and the Rainbow Warriors scored a massive measure of revenge in a 64-60 thriller on ESPN 2 versus arch rival Long Beach State.
Since their loss to UC Irvine–who was taken out by The Beach in the semifinals–in last year’s Big West tournament championship, the men’s program has faced adversity, such as NCAA sanctions and the departure of Isaac Fleming. The Rainbow Warriors hard fought win over Long Beach State is one that everyone will be remembering forever. It was their first win in three meetings over The Beach this year and the first over the 49ers in the state of California overall since 2007.
Eran Ganot, the Rainbow Warriors coach said, “What a day for the state and the athletic program.” Rainbow Wahine coach Laura Beeman added, “Hawaii, this one’s for you guys.”
The end of the men’s game triggered a wild celebration of Hawaii fans and the students that traveled with them–a change from the Irvine students that stormed the floor a year ago. Long Beach State students, with a large number expecting a celebration, left the arena quite quickly in stunned silence. In reference to challenges the team faced, guard/forward Aaron Valdes said, “We could have quit on each other, we could have [gone our separate ways,] but we…decided to stick it out.”
The women’s game, while not as close, was just as emotional. “I love every moment of it,” said Hawaii point guard Destiny King. “The loss from last year picked us up, made us mature.”
“There were really some key moments with this group that brought us together,” Coach Beeman said. “We had some pretty hefty team meetings; it really starts off with your seniors.” It was a change from the tearful press conference last year following a 67-60 loss to CSUN in the women’s final.
Hopefully, there will be no tears and plenty cause for celebration for both our men’s and women’s teams representing Hawaii this March. Let the madness begin!
First and Second Rounds – Friday and Saturday
The Rainbow Warriors were selected into the South Regional in the Spokane sub-pod as the 13-seed. They will face fourth-seed California on Friday at 8:00am.
The Rainbow Wahine were selected into the Bridgeport (Conn.) Regional in the Los Angeles sub-pod as the 14-seed. They will face third-seed and sub-pod host UCLA on Saturday at 12:30pm.