By Kathy Hansberry
The 46th Annual Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic served as the season opener for the University of Hawaii’s men’s basketball team. Originally held in December, this year’s tournament was held a month earlier on November 13, 15, and 16, 2009, with a new four-team format and a live televised late-night game as part of ESPN’s College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon. This year, the Rainbow Warriors played host to three talented mainland teams from McNeese State (Louisiana), Northern Colorado, and Southern Utah.
The three-day tourney kicked off on Friday, November 13, as Hawaii took on the Thunderbirds of Southern Utah. Next it was the Cowboys of McNeese State on Sunday, November 14. The ‘Bows started the season and the tournament off right with a 2-0 record, as they enjoyed back-to-back victories against these two tough teams.
The final game of the tournament began late Monday night at 11:05 p.m. and ran into the wee hours of Tuesday morning, as both undefeated Hawaii and Northern Colorado went head to head for the championship title. With the nation watching, a crowd of 2,513 basketball fans showed up at the Stan Sheriff Center to witness what turned out to be one of the most exciting games in this tourney’s history.
Both teams put on an electrifying game, as they took turns scoring with neither team leading by more than five points in the first half. The Bears of Northern Colorado grabbed a significant lead in the second half of the game, but the Rainbow Warriors fought back hard to make it a nail biter at the end.
Lacking sleep but energized with enthusiasm, the crowd’s loud cheers echoed throughout the center, as the game brought everyone to their feet for the last five minutes, while Hawaii furiously rallied to close a four-point gap. With the championship title closely at reach, the Hawaii team simply ran out of time and was ultimately defeated by Northern Colorado.
Outrigger President and CEO David Carey presented the trophy to the Bears of Northern Colorado, who took home the championship title.
Once again, the ever-popular Outrigger Shoot for Loot promo kept the spectators entertained through half-time, as they cheered on two lucky contestants, as they vied for a chance to win cash prizes.
As always, this tournament would not have been possible without the hard work of the Marketing and Sales teams and the many volunteers from our Outrigger ‘ohana. Mahalo to all of you for your time and effort in making this year’s Outrigger Rainbow Classic a success.