(MSUB Athletics photo)
(Press Release from MSUB Athletic Department)

HONOLULU – A red-hot Hawaii Pacific University women’s basketball team connected on 12 of 25 3-pointers Tuesday morning at Kilauea District Park Gym, handing Montana State University Billings a 79-52 loss in the finale of the Oahu Christmas Classic.

In their third straight defeat, the Yellowjackets (9-3) made just 5 of 25 threes (20.0 percent) and shot just 29.8 percent overall from the floor (17-for-57). MSUB was also out-rebounded by a significant margin of 49-28, with a dozen of HPU’s boards coming on the offensive end to result in 15 second-chance points.

“Today we got beat by a very good HPU team, that shot the ball well and dominated us from the 3-point line,” said MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin. “When we shoot the ball well from 3-point range we usually have a good chance to win, but today they were much better than us in that area.”

Alysha Marcucci did the majority of the damage from long range, connecting on 6 of 11 threes and leading all players with 20 points. Gabriella Fotu chipped in 14 points, Janessa Manzano had 11, and Jessi Reeves added 10 to pace the Sharks (8-2).

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MSUB held a 6-5 lead early in the first, but a cold spell struck and the Sharks hit three 3-pointers during a 13-2 run that opened up an 11-point margin. Alisha Breen connected from the top of the arc in the Yellowjackets’ final possession of the opening quarter, helping narrow the deficit to 18-10 after 10 minutes of play.

It was the closest the ‘Jackets got the rest of the game however, as a big second quarter gave HPU a 41-22 halftime lead. The ‘Jackets made just 2 of 13 threes in the first half, while HPU connected on 7 of 14 attempts to score the majority of its points.

Breen came alive with eight points in the first five minutes of the third quarter, but HPU had an answer for every shot the ‘Jackets converted. The Sharks’ led 65-38 by the end of the third, their largest lead of the game to that point.

A final three by Marcucci with 2:33 left in the game gave HPU its largest lead of the game at 76-48, as the ‘Jackets failed to gain any traction in a 14-14 fourth quarter. Jeanann Lemelin had three of MSUB’s five 3-pointers, and reached a career high of nine points in 15 strong minutes off the bench.

Breen finished the game with a team-best 19 points and six rebounds, but no other Yellowjacket reached double figures in scoring.

Reeves led all players with eight boards for the Sharks, while Jessica Harley had seven and Spencer Gray added six. Fotu had a team-best five assists in a game where HPU shared the ball exquisitely, as all 10 players who saw the court had at least two points and one rebound.

“Overall we have had a great time on the trip, and it was an awesome opportunity to play three great teams,” Woodin said. “We didn’t play at the level we needed to in order to come out on top in these games. We need to regroup after the break, and work on our 3-point defense and rebounding. We are looking forward to the holiday break, and we will come back and get ready for GNAC play.”

THE BUZZ: Lemelin was picked as the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Game…MSUB is now 2-2 all-time against HPU…Lemelin’s previous career high was five points, which she had achieved on five different occasions…senior point guard Rylee Kane made the 100th start of her career, all of which have come in succession since her freshman season began in 2014…Breen moved to No. 7 in MSUB history with 1,460 career points, surpassing Sherry McQuinn (1,452) and Kayleen Goggins (1,456) on Tuesday…Breen’s total is also 14th highest in GNAC history.

AHEAD: It’s GNAC play the rest of the way for MSUB, which has 18 more conference games between now and the end of February. After the holiday break, the ‘Jackets resume play against No. 19 Seattle Pacific University on Dec. 28 and Saint Martin’s University on Dec. 30. MSUB will enter the games with a 2-0 league record. Live video and live statistics for both road games will be available online through MSUB’s Stretch Internet portal here.