Tatupu overcomes injury to lead Seasiders

Tatupu overcomes injury to lead Seasiders

LAIE, Hawaii – Senior guard Brydgette Tatupu played through the pain of a broken wrist to seal the season sweep of Academy of Art in a 92-89 victory on Thursday night in the Cannon Activities Center.

"The ladies did an outstanding job of sticking to the gameplan and defending in transition," BYU-Hawaii head coach Craig Stanger said. "I was pleased with our effort and contributions from players like Makana Borden and Kjirsten Nelson who don't get many minutes. We really rose to the challenge of adversity with those two players and Brydgette battling through an injury. It was a great team win. We're excited to go into the conference tournament on a 3-game win streak."

Tatupu had a team-high 20 points and added three assists and three rebounds. Junior point guard Celeste Claw scored 18 points on the night on 60 percent shooting to go with six rebounds and seven assists. Junior forward Kjirsten Nelson had the first double-double of her collegiate career with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Senior forward Makana Borden had a career-night with career-highs of 12 points and nine rebounds.

The Seasiders (15-11, 12-8 PacWest) and the Urban Knights (17-10, 12-7 PacWest) battled through the first 17 minutes of the game to a 31-31 tie. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Claw and a jumper from Mata Tonga gave BYU-Hawaii an 8-0 run to take control of the lead for good.

Tatupu started senior night off right by sinking a 3-pointer to put the Seasiders on the board, but the Urban Knights answered as the teams battled to a 6-6 tie. Academy of Art then utilized a 9-0 run to take the lead with 14:23 remaining in the first half.

With 10:26 on the game clock, Claw made a free-throw that sparked a 9-0 run, which included shots from Whitney Fieldsted, Makana Borden and Tatupu that helped regain the lead for BYU-Hawaii at 21-20.

Before the final buzzer, Tonga was able to sink one more basket and Tatupu nailed one free-throw to send the game into break with the Seasiders ahead of the Urban Knights 42-35.

Claw led all scorers with 13 points to go with five rebounds and four assists. Tonga had a perfect shooting percentage in the first half, shooting 3-3 from the field and 2-2 from the charity stripe and grabbed four rebounds.

Academy of Art came out firing from the break and closed the Seasider lead down to two points, but shots from Marquessa Gilson, Claw, Borden and Fieldsted kept the team at bay at 50-46 with 15 minutes remaining in the game.

After Academy of Art tied BYU-Hawaii at 50 points apiece, Kjirsten Nelson made three free-throws for the Seasiders to push the lead back to three in a teeter-totter game.

Over the next few minutes, BYU-Hawaii showed tremendous defensive skills stopping key runs from the Urban Knights to stay ahead and opened up opportunities for Tatupu to sink back-to-back 3-pointers and put the Seasiders up 69-63 with 7:35 remaining in regulation.

At 3:34 Academy of Art began to play full court defense and cut the Seasider lead to 81-80 game, but at the same time began to get into foul trouble. BYU-Hawaii was able to connect on their free-throws during an 8-2 run to keep in control of the game.

With four seconds left, Tatupu found herself on the charity stripe and sank the last two free-throws of the game to finish out on top 92-89 in the final game of the regular season.

The Seasiders will next head to Irvine, California, for the PacWest Championship next week. BYU-Hawaii will play Thursday and will find out its opponent after the final games of the regular season on Saturday.

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