McClanahan’s buzzer-beater gets Hawaii its first Diamond Head Classic title

It was a Christmas miracle in Manoa.
Published: Dec. 25, 2022 at 9:18 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 25, 2022 at 9:27 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It was a Christmas miracle in Manoa.

On Sunday night, the University of Hawaii men’s basketball team came back from a big deficit over SMU to win their first Diamond Head Classic Championship.

The celebration was definitely earned, Hawaii trailing early to their opponents from the American Conference. The size of the Mustangs proving to be an issue early with SMU taking a 31-22 lead into halftime.

“You can lay down, They didn’t,” UH head coach Eran Ganot told reporters.

“Obviously wish we did better on the first free throw, but did it again, it didn’t matter, there’s a lot of time left, but make them make shots and gave ourselves a chance.”

After the break, it would be much of the same, SMU leading by as much as 10 points.

But the ‘Bows kept battling, down just two points after some missed free throws by the ‘Stangs.

With less than a second left, JoVon McClanahan bangs in the buzzer beating three-pointer and says Mele Kalikimaka, final score 58-57.

“Something about the energy in there, I just I knew we had a chance,” JoVon McClanahan said. “Like if they missed the free throw, I don’t know, something about the energy around the fans and and our team like something special was going to happen and it ended up happening and I’m just happy we won.”

This is Hawaii’s first Diamond Head Classic title since they created the tourney in 2009 — a sweet Christmas present 13 years in the making.

“I remember vividly being in the press conference here when they announced the Diamond Head,” Ganot said. “So all that comes in your mind, it’s amazing, you go to the locker room, to the hallway and it’s like I remember the press conference.”

This will also serve as a catapult into the grind of the rest of the season.

“There’s some pros in this tournament and I just know that our team got a confidence boost individually and as a team going into conference play,” McClanahan said. “So I just hope we carry this momentum.”

Up next, the ‘Bows begin Big West conference play at home against UC Davis.