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Hawaii Sports

Florence injured in Australian event, hopes to heal in time for Olympics

PERTH, Australia (AP) — Two-time world surfing champion John John Florence has a knee injury which he hopes won’t prevent him from representing the United States at the Tokyo Olympics.

The 28-year-old from Oahu’s North Shore said today he was withdrawing from the remainder of the World Surf League Championship Tour event at Margaret River and the follow-up one at Rottnest Island off the coast of the capital city of Perth.

“Unfortunately, I hurt my left knee on the end section of a wave during my round-16 heat two days ago,” Florence said. “I was able to surf the rest of my heat, just kind of feeling it out, but I knew something was off.”

The 2016 and 2017 world champion, Florence’s 2018 and 2019 seasons were both affected by knee injuries including a ruptured ACL in June 2019 in Brazil.

The Hawaii native doesn’t believe his injury is as serious this time and still hopes to compete in Tokyo in late July where surfing is making its Olympic Games debut.

“It’s not the same knee I dealt with last year so that’s good, but with the Olympics coming up this summer I’m going to focus on healing up and getting strong,” he said.

If Florence is unable to compete at the Olympics, his place would be taken by the next eligible American surfer, 11-time world champion Kelly Slater.

Florence, the two-time defending champion at Margaret River, had reached the quarterfinals before his withdrawal and is currently ranked No. 3 in the world.

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Hawaii Sports

Ko pushes ahead at Kapolei in bid to end title drought

By ANN MILLER

The Associated Press

KAPOLEI, Oahu — Lydia Ko again put herself in position for her first win in three years, shooting a 7-under 65 on Friday to take a one-stroke lead into the final round of the Lotte Championship.

Nelly Korda, who went back and forth with Ko for the lead throughout the third round, finished with a 63 and was one shot back. Ko pushed ahead one last time by rolling in the last of her seven birdies on the par-4 18th.

“It wasn’t a flying start compared to the other two days, but I stayed patient,” Ko said. “I had lots of looks but they just didn’t drop. When it’s that kind of day, you just have to be committed and do a good job on the next one and not be too worried.

“The last three days have been so much fun. That’s my mindset tomorrow and I’ll see where it gets me the end of the day.”

Ko is 21 under through three rounds at Kapolei Golf Club, which has offered little resistance this week even in windy conditions. She has played her last four rounds in 31 under, having fired a 62 last Sunday at the ANA Inspiration for her second runner-up finish of the year.

Ko’s earlier runner-up was in February at the Gainbridge LPGA, where she finished three shots behind Korda.

The 23-year-old former world No. 1 has 16 LPGA victories and two majors but has slumped since her last win in 2018. However, her game began to rebound last summer when the LPGA returned from its pandemic pause. Ko had the 54-hole lead at the Marathon LPGA Classic in Ohio last July but shot a final-round 73 to finish a shot behind winner Danielle Kang.

Korda has needed only 25 putts in all three rounds this week.

“I did leave a couple out there,” Korda said of her 63, “so it’s kind of crazy.”

Yuka Saso, a 19-year-old from the Philippines playing on a sponsor’s exemption, followed her back-to-back 64s with a 71 and was four shots back. She began the day with a two-shot lead over Ko but bogeyed the first hole while Ko made birdie. Saso made three more bogeys on the front nine before rallying to finish under par for the day.

The average score Friday, with Kapolei less breezy and a few tees moved up, was 68.3. Among the big movers were Leona Maguire, who was five shots back after a 65, and Amy Yang, who shot 64 and was another shot behind.

Maui-born Kyung Kim shot a 1-under 71 and was tied for 72nd place at 4 under heading into the final round.

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Hawaii Sports

Rainbow Wahine eliminated in Big West semifinals 64-52

The Maui News

The University of Hawaii women’s basketball team was eliminated from the Big West Conference tournament Friday, falling 64-52 to top-seeded UC Davis in the semifinals in Las Vegas.

Hawaii’s season ends at 9-8.

The Aggies (12-2) took control of the game by outscoring the Rainbow Wahine 22-11 in the third quarter to pull away from a 24-24 tie at halftime. UC Davis earned a spot in the Big West championship game for the third straight season.

Coming off a season-high 81 points in a quarterfinal win over Cal State Bakersfield, UH couldn’t find a rhythm against the league’s top defensive team, which held the Rainbow Wahine to a season-low 24 percent shooting mark.

The teams split their regular-season series last week in Honolulu when UH handed the Aggies their only conference loss of the season on Friday.

Amy Atwell led UH with 17 points and nine rebounds. With a three 3-pointers, Atwell moved past Nani Cockett for fourth all-time for UH in career 3-pointers with 129. Hawaii senior Jadynn Alexander finished with 10 points.

Mackenzie Trpcic scored 13 points and Sage Stobbart added 12 to lead the Aggies, who play UC Irvine for the conference title today.

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Hawaii Sports

UH basketball teams earn big wins over UC Davis

The Maui News

Justin Webster scored 17 points as the University of Hawaii men’s basketball team held off UC Davis for a pivotal 73-68 victory on Friday night in Davis, Calif.

Mate Colina added 12 points for the Rainbow Warriors (11-8, 9-8 Big West Conference), who won their third straight. James Jean-Marie scored 11 points and Jardine Casdon had 10.

The win guaranteed the Rainbow Warriors will be no worse than the No. 6 seed for next week’s Big West tournament, putting them through to the quarterfinals. It also gave head coach Eran Ganot his 100th career victory — 97 have come at UH, while three were earned as acting head coach at Saint Mary’s.

The Rainbow Warriors led 37-30 at halftime and then 65-54 with less than five minutes remaining before the Aggies rallied. Down 71-68, UC Davis had a chance to send the game to overtime in the final seconds, but Kennedy Koehler’s 3-point attempt was off the mark and Junior Madut hit a pair of free throws for the final margin.

UH tied a season high with 21 turnovers, but made up for it by shooting 48 percent (12 of 25) on 3-pointers and outrebounding UC Davis 42-22.

Elijah Pepper led the Aggies (8-7, 5-4) with 19 points. Ezra Manjon scored 17, Damion Squire 13 and Caleb Fuller 12.

In Honolulu, the UH women’s team posted a big upset of the conference-leading Aggies, 70-60.

Amy Atwell led the Rainbow Wahine (8-6, 7-5) with 16 points, while Jadynn Alexander added 12 points and Kelsie Imai had 10 points and 12 rebounds.

UH never trailed in the game, leading 19-12 after the first quarter and 34-25 at the half. UC Davis closed to 49-47 heading into the final period, but the Rainbow Wahine were able to hold on and hand the Aggies their first conference loss of the season.

Cierra Hall scored 18 points to lead the Aggies (9-2, 8-1). Sage Stobbart had 12 points and 13 rebounds, and Mackenzie Trpcic had 13 points.

The teams play again today.

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Hawaii Sports

Kiner-Falefa confident as new Rangers shortstop

After stints at C and 3B, Honolulu native ready to prove he’s an elite SS

By STEPHEN HAWKINS

The Associated Press

Isiah Kiner-Falefa has always been a shortstop, but first had to fake his confidence as a catcher and a third baseman for the Texas Rangers.

After winning a Gold Glove as a third baseman last season, Kiner-Falefa feels like he can finally be himself, and the leader for a rebuilding team, as their starting shortstop.

“Third base isn’t who I am. It’s what I did,” Kiner-Falefa said. “I’m shortstop. I’m an elite shortstop, and I’m ready to prove it. But I understood that for me to get this opportunity, I had to be a really good third baseman. And that’s just one of the things I did. I had to be a catcher. … And now I can be myself and do what I want to do, not what everybody else wants me to do.”

The Rangers had enough confidence in the Mid-Pacific Institute graduate from Honolulu that they declared him their top shortstop this offseason before trading Elvis Andrus — their opening day shortstop each of the past 12 seasons, and the only player remaining from their two World Series appearances a decade ago.

“I had to kind of fake the confidence at other positions and show the guys that I could do it, and I was willing to do it,” said Kiner-Falefa, who turns 26 on March 23.

Kiner-Falefa grew up trying to be like shortstops Ozzie Smith, Derek Jeter and Michael Young, now a special assistant to the Rangers general manager. Young was a five-time All-Star shortstop for Texas after moving from second base to replace Alex Rodriguez, and before switching to third base for Andrus’ debut as a 20-year-old shortstop in 2009.

After an impressive power surge in spring training last year, which he carried over into the summer camp before the pandemic-delayed and shortened season, Kiner-Falefa earned the starting job at third base. Todd Frazier, previously signed as a potential starter at third, was moved to first base instead. Kiner-Falefa also started 15 games at short when Andrus was injured.

Kiner-Falefa hit .280, and joined Adrian Beltre and Buddy Bell as Rangers third basemen to win Gold Gloves.

Third-year manager Chris Woodward arrived when the Rangers were still trying to make Kiner-Falefa a big league catcher. The skipper immediately learned of Kiner-Falefa’s reputation as a constant hard worker who would do whatever he was asked, something that hasn’t changed.

“Everybody told me how good of a third baseman he was, and how good of a shortstop he was. When you see a kid being a catcher and working at being a catcher, it’s hard to visualize that in a shortstop until I saw him take ground balls,” Woodward said. “To see him at third and just watching how that played out and then seeing obviously last year how good he was, that made it so much easier for me … made it a really easy decision.”

Kiner-Falefa made his MLB debut early in the 2018 playing second and then third base because of injuries to Rougned Odor and Beltre, the likely future Hall of Fame third baseman then in his final season. When both were healthy, Texas got Kiner-Falefa in the lineup as a catcher, and he was exclusively behind the plate the first two months of 2019 before returning to a utility infielder role.

“I wanted to be a big leaguer,” Kiner-Falefa said. “By doing everything and checking off every box that the organization asked me to do put me in this position. A lot of guys would have shied away, ran away or wouldn’t be here. But I stuck through every single role, and I’ve succeeded at every single role.”

Still a relatively young player himself, Kiner-Falefa has a new role as the starting shortstop and a primary leader for the rebuilding Rangers. Texas had three 22-year-old rookies in the starting lineup for the final game of an AL-worst 22-38 season last September, when the only position player older than 26 was Shin-Soo Choo in a farewell appearance at the end of a $130 million, seven-year contract.

“He’s earned that right, especially from a lead-by-example standpoint. He does it every day,” Woodward said. “He’s our most in-tune player on the field, he’s our most dedicated on a pitch-by-pitch basis. That’s what you want your shortstop to be. … He’s going to take the challenge, and he’s got to prove to the world that he’s a shortstop, and he’s taking that. He loves that opportunity.”

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Hawaii Sports

Madut, Bayles help Rainbow Warriors top Matadors 75-74

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Junior Madut had a season-high 23 points and Biwali Bayles hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 22 seconds left as the University of Hawaii men’s basketball team narrowly beat Cal State Northridge 75-74 on Friday.

Bayles finished with 12 points for the Rainbow Warriors (8-7, 6-7 Big West Conference), who ended a two-game skid. James Jean-Marie and Noel Coleman each added 11 points.

TJ Starks scored 11 points in a 17-3 run that gave CSUN its first lead since the opening minutes and made it 74-72 with 46 seconds remaining. Bayles answered with a 3 about 24 seconds later, and the Matadors went 0-for-3 from the field from there as Hawaii held on.

Justin Webster, whose 13 points per game heading into the contest led the Rainbow Warriors, failed to make a shot, going 0 for 5.

Starks scored a career-high 31 points for the Matadors (7-9, 3-6). Darius Brown II added 14 points, six rebounds and six assists, and Brendan Harrick scored 11 points.

The teams play again today.

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Hawaii Sports

Rainbow Warriors held to season low in scoring, fall to Gauchos

The Maui News

The University of Hawaii men’s basketball team saw its three-game winning streak snapped Friday night, losing to UC Santa Barbara 59-50 at SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu.

James Jean-Marie scored 10 points — the only Rainbow Warrior to reach double digits — as UH (7-6, 5-6 Big West Conference) was held to its lowest point total of the season.

Hawaii shot 33 percent (18 of 54) from the field, only slightly worse than the 37 percent for the Gauchos (13-3, 7-2). UCSB outscored UH 36-18 in the paint, 16-4 on fast breaks and points off turnovers.

The Rainbow Warriors trailed by as many as 10 points in the first half and were behind 28-20 at halftime. They got within 43-38 with just under eight minutes remaining, but never got any closer.

Jaquori McLaughlin and Amadou Sow each scored 14 points to lead the Gauchos, who have won nine straight. Josh Pierre-Louis added 11 points.

Earlier Friday, sophomore forward Kasey Neubert notched her first career double-double with 19 points and a career-high 15 rebounds to lead the UH women’s team to a 72-62 victory over UC Santa Barbara in Santa Barbara, Calif.

The Rainbow Wahine scored a season-high 24 points in the first quarter before going cold in the second and trailed 35-27 at halftime. They opened the third quarter on a 10-0 run to get back into the game, and went on a 12-2 run bridging the third and fourth quarters to pull away for good.

Daejah Phillips scored 19 points and Kelsie Imai had a career-high 10 assists for UH (5-5, 4-4).

Taylor Mole led the Gauchos (2-12, 2-8) with 14 points.

The teams play again today.

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Hawaii Sports

Wong, Brewers finalize $18M, two-year deal

By STEVE MEGARGEE

The Associated Press

MILWAUKEE — Kolten Wong is leaving St. Louis behind but staying in the NL Central as the Milwaukee Brewers reshape the right side of their infield by adding a Gold Glove second baseman.

Wong and the Brewers finalized their $18 million, two-year contract on Friday, a deal that includes a 2023 club option.

Milwaukee is making room for Wong in their infield by shifting Keston Hiura from second base to first base.

St. Louis had declined a $12.5 million 2021 option for Wong in December, making him eligible for free agency.

“It took me a little bit to kind of get my head around the whole thing,” the former University of Hawaii standout from Hilo said. “Obviously being a Cardinal for as long as I’ve been, there’s a lot of memories, there’s a lot of good things I created there. But also seeing from across (the field) how the Brewers play, how they go about their business and the type of team this is, it just fits my mold really well. It’s a grinding team, a team that just goes out there and competes every single day.”

Wong has earned Gold Glove honors each of the last two seasons. Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns called Wong “in our opinion, the best defensive second baseman in all of baseball.”

The 30-year-old owns a career .261 batting average with a .333 on-base percentage. Wong batted .265 with a .350 on-base percentage, one homer and 16 RBIs in 53 games last season.

He has traditionally hit well in Milwaukee. Wong’s career statistics at American Family Field, formerly known as Miller Park, include a .308 batting average, .373 on-base percentage and .482 slugging percentage in 57 games.

“That was kind of a big reason for me coming to Milwaukee,” Wong said. “I just knew that that was a field where I really saw the ball well at. I felt comfortable playing there. I have a lot of confidence playing in that field.”

Wong said he was somewhat surprised the Brewers showed interest in him because they already had the 24-year-old Hiura, who batted just .212 last season but hit .303 and posted a .938 OPS as a rookie in 2019.

But the Brewers believe Hiura can thrive at first base.

“He’s going to have exceptional range for a first baseman,” Stearns said. “And look, there are finer points of the position that will take time to adjust. We understand that there are going to be mistakes. That’s OK. But Keston is going to grow through it, and ultimately we’re very confident that he’s going to be able to figure it out.”

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Hawaii Sports

Webster leads Rainbow Warriors to 84-68 rout of Cal Poly

The Maui News

Justin Webster scored 20 points to lead the University of Hawaii men’s basketball team past Cal Poly 84-68 on Friday night at SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu.

Mate Colina contributed 14 points and nine rebounds, Casdon Jardine also scored 14 and Junior Madut added 13 for the Rainbow Warriors (6-5, 4-5 Big West Conference).

UH used a 21-2 run late in the first half to pull away and led 41-31 at halftime. The Rainbow Warriors, who shot 58 percent from the field (28 of 48), maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the game.

Hawaii outrebounded the Mustangs 38-19.

Colby Rogers had 15 points to lead Cal Poly (3-12, 1-8). Alimamy Koroma added 14 points and Mark Crowe had 12.

In San Luis Obispo, Calif., the UH women’s team lost to Cal Poly 79-71 in overtime Friday.

The game featured 18 lead changes and nine ties, the last coming with 16 seconds left as Cal Poly’s Sierra Campisano hit a 15-foot jumper to tie the game at 62. UH’s Olivia Davies’ shot in the final seconds hit off the backside of the iron, sending the Rainbow Wahine (3-5, 2-4) to overtime for the first time this season.

Maddie Willet scored eight points as the Mustangs (8-5, 4-3) outscored UH 17-9 in the extra period.

Meilani McBee made five 3-pointers and finished with 19 points to lead Hawaii. Jadynn Alexander added 16 points and Davies 12.

Abbey Ellis led Cal Poly with 27 points. Campisano scored 22 and Willett finished with 16.

The teams play again today.

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Hawaii Sports

Rainbow Warriors fall short against Anteaters

The Maui News

Brad Greene had 18 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks, and UC Irvine held off the University of Hawaii men’s basketball team 53-51 on Friday at SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu.

Casdon Jardine scored 14 points and James Jean-Marie added 12 to lead the Rainbow Warriors, who fell to 4-5 overall and 2-5 in Big West Conference play when Justin Webster’s 3-point attempt at the buzzer missed the mark.

The Anteaters improved to 9-4, 5-0 in the Big West.

In Irvine, Calif., the UH women’s team never led in falling to UC Irvine 82-68.

Amy Atwell had 16 points, Jadynn Alexander scored 13, and Kelsie Imai and Kasey Neubert each added 12 for the Rainbow Wahine (3-4, 2-3).

Kayla Williams scored 20 points to lead the Anteaters (8-5, 5-0).

The teams play again today.