Cal Poly women’s basketball coach Faith Mimnaugh has helped mold many talented players in her two decades on the Mustangs’ bench, and it’s fair to say there may not be another athlete quite like Hannah Gilbert.
Not long after Cal Poly’s season ended Tuesday night with a 71-50 loss to Hawaii in the first round of the Big West Conference Tournament at Long Beach State’s Walter Pyramid, Mimnaugh answered questions from reporters about one her star pupils for what will likely be the final time.
She praised Gilbert’s relentless work ethic, her attention to detail and toughness. All three were on display against the defending conference tournament champion Rainbow Warriors, a team that defeated the Mustangs three times during an uneven 2016-17 season.
“She’s been a warrior,” Mimnaugh said. “She’s the first kid up the court on offense and sometimes the first kid up the court on defense. Her work ethic is unbelievable, and that’s not just on the court.”
The 6-foot-3 senior forward from Morro Bay capped a stellar four-year career by scoring a game-high 26 points on 12-for-23 shooting and blocking three shots in 37 minutes.
It was Gilbert’s seventh 20-point performance of the season and the 12th of her career, but it wasn’t enough for the Mustangs (11-19) to extend their season.
Hawaii (12-18) held Cal Poly to 18 points below its season scoring averaging and limited the rest of the Mustangs to a combined 9-for-42 shooting performance.
The Rainbow Warriors, not generally known for their perimeter shooting, made 10 3-pointers on the way to their fourth consecutive victory and a second-round matchup with No. 3 CSUN.
“We knew that they were going to go back inside to her quite a bit,” fifth-year Hawaii coach Laura Beeman said of Gilbert. “But if she’s the only one scoring — it’s not coming in bundles — then we’re really OK with that.”
Gilbert, who was named a first-team all-Big West performer earlier this week, concluded her Cal Poly career ranking sixth in program history in both scoring and rebounding.
She passed former teammate and Righetti High School graduate Molly Schlemer on the all-time scoring list with a turn-around hook shot in the first quarter Tuesday night. Gilbert scored 1,157 points and grabbed 663 rebounds over the course of her 119-game career.
Gilbert said she was “kind of in shock” when she jogged off the court in a Mustangs uniform for the final time. Mimnaugh was waiting near the bench, and the two shared a brief moment together knowing their final chapter as player and coach had been written.
“I saw my family and then there was some water works,” Gilbert said. “But, right now, it hasn’t quite hit me that I’m not playing in the Big West anymore.”
Fellow senior Amanda Lovely also closed her 59-game Cal Poly career with seven points, four rebounds and five assists in 35 minutes. Mimnaugh spoke highly of Lovely’s leadership over the past two seasons, saying “the whole team really wanted it for those two people.”
“They been excellent leaders for us,” Mimnaugh continued, “and unfortunately we couldn’t put the ball in the bucket tonight, and certainly Hawaii could.”
The Rainbow Warriors also managed to do what few teams in the Big West could this season — stop the Leaupepe sisters.
Dynn and Lynn Leaupepe, who both averaged 15.0 points per game during the regular season and received all-conference recognition, were held to a 5-for-26 shooting performance.
Dynn Leaupepe finished with nine points, six rebounds and four steals in 30 minutes, and Lynn Leaupepe added six points, a game-high 10 rebounds and one steal.
Mimnaugh said she expected Hawaii to be physical with the twins, and that ultimately made Cal Poly a one-side attack offensively with Gilbert.
“She was the only thing going for us on offense,” Mimnaugh said. “I was disappointed that we couldn’t get some other people going. We certainly tried.”
Big West Conference Tournament
Hawaii 71, Cal Poly 50
Key stat: Hannah Gilbert scored a game-high 26 points on 12-for-23 shooting. The rest of the Mustangs went a combined 9-for-42.
Noteworthy: Gilbert passed former Cal Poly standout Molly Schlemer to move into sixth place on the Mustangs’ all-time scoring list.
Up next: Cal Poly ends the season 11-18 overall.