The Student Union of UAA is not generally the place a person would hear the chant “Let’s go, Seawolves” and uproarious applause. However, on March 26-27, it was a different story.
Students and fans gathered in the Student Union to watch the broadcast of the UAA men and women’s basketball teams as both teams played in the NCAA Division II Elite Eight on March 26, and the Final Four on March 27.
Elite Eight games
The Seawolf women kicked off the games on March 26 in Kearney, Neb., where they matched up against Franklin Pierce University to battle for the seed in the Final Four.
The evenly matched Seawolves and Franklin Pierce Ravens stayed neck and neck until 5:24 remained in the first half when the Seawolves went on an 11-6 run, ending the half at 30-25.
The Ravens were not about to let a chance at the Final Four slip away that easily, however. After a couple of good three-pointers from FPU’s junior guard Toby Martin, UAA replied with five steals in five minutes, converting almost all of them into points.
The Seawolves and Ravens ended regulation at 60-60, putting them into overtime.
With help from UAA’s Rebecca Kielpinski and Kalhie Quinones, UAA outscored FPU 11-5 in overtime, earning their berth in the Final Four.
“That game we were fortunate enough to win in overtime,” Quinones said, “I mean, when you get this far no team is going to go down easily, and I think it just came down to toughness.”
Both Kielpinski and Quinones earned double-doubles against FPU, Kielpinski with 28 points and 14 rebounds in the 44 minutes she played and Quinones with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Meanwhile, the Seawolf men were preparing for their first game in the Elite Eight against California University of Pennsylvania.
When the CUP Vulcans led by nine points with 11:49 left to go in the first half, the Seawolves kicked it up a notch and went into the locker room up by two at the half.
Starting off the second half with a three-pointer from Chris Bryant, the Seawolves knew it was time to do or die. With a spot in the Final Four on the line, the Vulcans also turned it up, their senior guard Theron Colao making four three-pointers while UAA kept up with consistent shots from Luke Cooper and Carl Arts.
McCade Olsen, who had been held scoreless until the second half, tied the score at 50 with a turnaround jumper and 3:20 left to go. After another jumper from Olsen, Arts and Bryant sealed the game with their high-percentage free-throw shooting, ending with 55-52.
UAA is the second college in NCAA history to get both their men and women’s basketball teams into the Division II Final Four. This feat has not been achieved since 1984 when Central Missouri State won both titles.
Final Four games
Ranked number four nationally, UAA’s men played in the Final Four on March 27 against nationally ranked number 10, Augusta State University.
The Seawolves came out ready for action, but as the first half went on it was apparent that their shots were just not falling. Hitting only five of 26 shots in the first half left UAA with a 19 percent shot average and ended the half 11-28.
Regrouped, UAA came out for the second half, soon closing the 17-point gap to just three points with 10:52 left to go in regulation.
Cameron Burney, Arts and Bryant scored the next 12 points with a series of threes assisted by Cooper and Kevin White that kept UAA within three points of ASU.
However, UAA’s massive resurge was not enough to fend off the ASU Jaguars, and the Seawolves fell in the final game of their extraordinary season, 56-50.
Around the same time, UAA’s women gave their all in hopes of beating the Northern Kentucky University Norse and earning a Division II national championship game appearance.
With the Seawolves trailing for most of the first half, Northern Kentucky kept their shot percentage a bit higher than the Seawolves and went into the half with 26-21.
Fully capable of regaining the momentum of the game, Kielpinski, Quinones and Dasha Basova led the Seawolves in an 11-4 run in the final four minutes of regulation, coming to 52-54.
Despite the full efforts of the Seawolves, they too fell to their adversary in their Final Four game, 54-57.
When asked about whether or not weariness from traveling and the overtime game from the day before had been factors, Quinones said she didn’t think so.
“Being from Alaska, every away game we travel a lot, so that is not really an excuse,” she said. “It seemed to me that it was nerves and people were worried to shoot. When you mix those, you second-guess your shots and they don’t fall.”
Although UAA’s men and women’s teams ended their seasons with losses, both teams also led two of the most successful seasons in UAA basketball history. The Seawolves’ basketball teams also raised the bar for upcoming athletes, shattering more than their share of UAA, Great Northwest Athletic Conference and NCAA records.
During their time in Nebraska, the UAA women’s team not only secured a Final Four title but also recruited some local fans to come and cheer for them.
Before their Elite Eight games, the women traveled to two elementary schools to talk about Alaska, basketball, leadership and teamwork. The children they visited later went on a field trip to watch the Seawolves play.
“It was really amazing, because not every day you get to make a difference in someone’s life,” Quinones said. “I mean, those kids may never get to go to a college basketball game again, and they may cherish those memories their whole life.”
How did the elementary children do cheering our Seawolves on?
“You think that because they are elementary school kids that they would get tired, but they got there when we started warming up and cheered very loud the entire game,” Quinones said.