Beason, Seawolves shrug off shaky start to win

Stephanie Beason wasn’t starting her UAA career the way she hoped to. In the first half of her first game as a Seawolf, Beason was struggling with her shot and UAA was struggling to keep up with Rocky Mountain College, who led by as much as 10 points early on.

But despite making just one of her first eight shots, Beason stayed true to her mantra: Just keep shooting.

“That’s the only way to get out of a shooting slump,” she said after the game. “Keep jacking it up there.”

With a minute left in the first half, the 5-8 shooting guard connected on a three-pointer to give UAA a 29-28 lead. The trey broke Beason out of her early slump and the junior transfer scored 16 of her game-high 23 points in the second half to lead the Seawolves to a 66-58 victory over the Bears Nov. 13.

 The Seawolves came out of the gates looking nervous in their debut against a Rocky Mountain squad that had four games under their belt including an 84-49 thrashing by UAF. UAA missed 15 of their first 19 shots, while the Bears hit open shots to get a quick lead

“I expected some first half jitters and looking at our shooting percentage, I think that had a lot to do with it,” UAA head coach Jody Hensen said.

Beason, a junior college All-American at North Central Missouri, led a calmer Seawolf squad in the second half by dropping in rainbow-like three-pointers but it was the inside play of UAA’s two Division I transfers that kept the game close until then.

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Sophomore Tenecia Macon and senior Taylor Long combined for 19 first-half points to help the Seawolves erase a 24-14 deficit and lead 31-28 at the half.

Long, a 6-2 center, scored 11 of her 15 points in the first frame with slick footwork inside that produced lay-ups or trips to the foul line.

Macon made her presence felt all over the court in just seven first-half minutes. The 6-1 forward ripped down three rebounds and ran the floor for easy finishes that resulted in eight points.

But it was Macon’s play on the defensive end that allowed the Seawolves to get back in the game. Macon swatted shots and chased down steals that netted UAA fast-break opportunities and an 11-0 run to put them up 25-24.

“That’s kind of player T is. She’s a huge spark,” Beason said. “Coach is always saying how every time she’s on the court, everyone’s intensity just steps up.”

The game was a homecoming for the duo of Macon and Long. Macon was a prep star at East Anchorage before heading to San Jose State. Long, who spent two years at Mount St. Mary’s, played at Grace Christian. Both players had vocal contingents rooting them on among the 580 fans in the stands at the Wells Fargo Sports Complex.

“I loved it,” Macon said with a smile after the game.

UAA head coach Jody Hensen was smiling afterwards, too.

Hensen, who is starting her second season at the helm for the Seawolves, saw room for improvement but was pleased that her team, which only returned three players from last year, won despite the absence of two probable starters. Guards Cassie Bro and Christa Wilson seat out with foot injuries but should be back in time for the UAA’s Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout with Louisiana-Lafayette Nov. 23.

“I thought our effort could’ve been better but I’m kind of hard to please when it comes to effort,” Hensen said. “Having two people out threw a little glitch into things. To these girls’ credit, we had people playing out of position, which I think shows our versatility.”

The lack of Bro and Wilson forced Hensen to start freshman Laura Gyllenberg. The 5-4 point guard played the full 40 minutes and showed flashes of playmaking brilliance by weaving passes through the defense to open teammates. The Baker City, Ore. native tallied nine assists with just two turnovers.

“Throwing a freshman in there who played 40 minutes, I thought Laura did a tremendous job,” Hensen said.

The Seawolves didn’t slam the door on the Bears until Beason hit a leaning jumper that bounced high off the back of the rim and through the net to make it 63-58 with 1:03 left. But Macon and the Seawolves chalked up the close game as good experience for a young team that is still coming together.

“You don’t want a blowout. You want a team that’s going to give you a game,” Macon said. “To their credit, they came out and they gave us a game. But we gave them a game back.”