Category: Women’s Basketball

March 20, 2017 Alexis Abbott
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UAA's Alysha Devine guards Simon Fraser's Ellen Kett during UAA's second round in the NCAA West Region Championship. Photo credit: Jay Guzman

Ranking No. 1 in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, and entering the West Region Championships with the No. 1 seed, Alaska Anchorage’s women’s basketball team had all the confidence they needed to leap over their first opponent in the tournament quarterfinals.

Little did they know, every team in the WRC bracket brought their best game to the Alaska Airlines Center, hungry to earn the championship and advance to the Elite Eight.

Friday, March 11 vs. Hawaii Pacific

The UAA women’s basketball team was put to the test in the NCAA Div. II Championship quarterfinals.

UAA, ranked No. 1 (30-1), survived an intense first-round matchup between No. 8 seed Hawaii Pacific (21-7), in a 63-56 victory.

“I’m proud of our ladies for surviving and advancing. I’m most proud of the way they fought back,” head coach Ryan McCarthy said.

The win made 30 total victories for the Seawolves against fellow D-II opponents.

The game got off to a slow start, beginning with a 20-15 lead by Hawaii Pacific after the first quarter. UAA trailed behind until a sudden improvement in play by senior forward Autummn Williams, who dropped a 3-pointer just in time for the Seawolves to walk out leading 27-26 at halftime.

The third quarter was when the game began to be in UAA’s favor, while the energy began shifting from the Sharks to the Seawolves. Although it was a low-scoring matchup, both teams brought high-level intensity to the court.

The Seawolves made a 43-30 lead after three-quarters of aggressive play.

Williams racked up a team-high of 23 points, with senior guard Tara Thompson not far behind with 15.

Thompson began the fourth quarter sinking four 3-point shots to change the game for both the Seawolves and the spectators.

It was clear that both teams were hungry to get the win, but by the end of the fourth quarter, it was Alaska Anchorage that fought harder.

The Seawolves advanced to the semifinals against No. 5 seed Simon Fraser (25-7).

Saturday, March 12 vs. Simon Fraser

After a brutal 40 minutes, the UAA women’s basketball team suffered a massive upset in the West Regional Championship semifinals. The Seawolves ended their 26-game winning streak to Simon Fraser (27-7) with a final score of 70-80.

This loss was UAA’s first all season to a Div. II team, wrapping up the record-breaking season 30-2. The Seawolves beat the Simon Fraser Clan twice before the WRC second round.

The tough matchup began with a tight score, ending the first quarter with UAA up 17-16. The Seawolves brought the momentum they needed to get ahead and by half-time they led 35-27.

After the halftime break, the game started to take a left shift, while the lady Seawolves only managed to bulk up seven points in the third quarter — the Clan racked up a whopping 27 points.

Autummn Williams made a noticeable appearance in the last quarter, leading the team once again with 18 points, most of which were made from jumpers in the fourth.

Junior forward Shelby Cloninger was not far behind, contributing 16 points to the Seawolves’ score. Sophomore Hannah Wandersee also made a lasting impression with 14 points and 7 rebounds.

Kiki Robertson led the team in steals in her last game as a Seawolf and is now the GNAC’s single season steals record holder, with 109 steals. Robertson ends her career as the GNAC’s all-time career leader in assists, steals and games started, after starting her 128th game at UAA.

As the clock counted down in the last few minutes of the matchup, the desperation that both teams had felt began to show. Shooting free-throws every minute and intentional fouling contributed to an intense wrap-up of the Seawolves’ final game.

Outshot, but not outplayed, nationally-ranked UAA ended their record-breaking season with blood, sweat and a lot of tears.

March 20, 2017 Lauren Cuddihy
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Seniors Kiki Robertson and Autummn Williams became 2016-17 standouts for the Seawolves women's basketball team. Both players were honored with NCAA Division II All-Regional honors. Photo credit: UAA Athletics

With an outstanding and record breaking season, the Seawolves women’s basketball finished off the season unexpectedly in the NCAA West Region Championships that they had the privilege of hosting at the Alaska Airlines Center.

The Seawolves not only clinched the regular season and Great Northwest Athletic Conference championship title but also remained at No. 2 in the national division 2 rankings for the entire season and held the No. 1 seed in the west region up until their final championship game against Simon Fraser on March 11.

In the West Region Championships, the Seawolves first defeated No. 7 Hawaii Pacific at 63-56. However, head coach Ryan McCarthy knew the Seawolves could have played a lot better.

“I think we played with a lot more composure, but [that night] definitely wasn’t our best shooting night,” McCarthy said.

Large contributions were made by senior forward Autummn Williams and sophomore guard Tara Thompson, who had 23 and 15 points, respectively. In addition, senior guard Kiki Robertson made 7 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists.

UAA’s second game of the tournament, against No. 4 Simon Fraser, gave other Seawolves a chance to shine. Junior forward Shelby Cloninger came through with 14 points and seven rebounds, while sophomore forward Hannah Wandersee managed a career-high five blocks, but neither effort was enough. The Seawolves’ season was ended with a final score of 80-70 against SFU.

The team and head coach McCarthy knew this was a possibility from the very beginning.

“One game and you’re done, there is no series like the big leagues. One bad game or one slip up and [you could have] it slip through your fingers,” McCarthy said. “I’m disappointed in certain areas, but I am most proud of how they fought back.”

Overall the team ended with an undefeated conference record at 20-0 and an overall record of 30-2. With the impressive overall season, many individuals were recognized after the devastating early end.

Williams and Robertson were recognized for their outstanding performances throughout the season, which earned each of them NCAA Division II All-Regional honors. The duo proved to everyone to exceed expectations.

“It was always good to keep going and prove everyone wrong,” Robertson said.

Williams earned the honor of being named to first team by averaging 21.3 points per game, making her the sixth highest scorer in all of Division II. In addition, Williams also earned the title of GNAC Newcomer of the Year and GNAC Tournament MVP.

Williams also broke the Seawolves’ single-season scoring record by accumulating 682 points. With the many records and honors that Williams earned, she now advances to the national ballot for NCAA Division II All-American honors.

The second UAA standout, Robertson, earned her title to the NCAA Division II Second Team All-West Region and GNAC Defensive Player of the Year by securing four different UAA and GNAC all-time high records. Robertson managed 700 assists, 382 steals, 128 started games and 116 victories.

Robertson was a valuable player on and off the court, not only pulling in many records and honors but also being an exceptional individual and teammate.

“We looked at last years team and it doesn’t really mean much to us anymore, we were trying to start new traditions and legacies for us and our younger teammates,” Robertson said.

With the commencement of the 2016-2017 basketball season, the UAA women’s team will lose three of their most valuable players, in addition to Williams and Robertson, senior forward Alysha Devine will also no longer be on the team.

Devine has made a substantial impact on the success of the women’s basketball team over the past four years, including being on the GNAC All-Academic team every year, while also previously being named as the honorable mention All-GNAC and MVP of NCAA West Region Championships. Devine also served as the team co-captain for three of her four years.

Although the Seawolves lost their chance to continue onto the Elite Eight, Simon Fraser doesn’t get the opportunity either, after being beaten in the final round. California Baptist University defeated Western Washington for the West Region title and will compete in the Elite Eight on March 21-24.

February 27, 2017 Lauren Cuddihy
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Senior guard Kiki Robertson stays focused during an offensive play during Saturday, Feb. 25's win over Simon Frasier. Photo credit: Simon Fraiser Athletics

As the women’s basketball season is nearing the end, the team only seems to defy all odds and continues to break records. Before coming into the weekend, the women had already cliched a 21 game win streak, as well as remaining the reigning Great Northwest Athletic Conference and West Regional No. 1 seeds. In addition, the women still hold their No. 2 position in the national division II rankings, only 31 points behind the No. 1 Ashland.

The Seawolves came into the weekend of Feb. 23-25 prepared to play the second two highest seeds in the conference, first, No. 2 Western Washington and No. 3 Simon Fraser.

Thursday, Feb. 23 vs. Western Washington

Being No. 2 in the conference, the team and head coach Ryan McCarthy knew it wouldn’t be an easy game.

“They’re a well coached team and they play very hard… We haven’t played them since the beginning of December, but we can diversify what we can and cannot do and change things up,” McCarthy said.

The Seawolves debuted the night against WWU with the first lead of the night, credited early on to senior guard Kiki Robertson and senior forward Autummn Williams.

By the end of the first quarter put the Seawolves ahead, but only by 3 points, something that the team wasn’t used to, usually obtaining a lead much larger. Slowly redeeming themselves, the Seawolves pooled their effort with eight of the women securing points.

By halftime, the Seawolves had a slightly larger lead at 32-23. Temporarily, they stayed within in a safe lead, enough to get them through the third quarter.

Junior forward Sierra Afoa and Williams came into the spotlight after halftime, managing a combined 10 points total to keep the team at a steady 10 point lead coming into the fourth quarter.

Quickly, the game started to go downhill for the Seawolves. With many offensive errors and not enough points, Western Washington managed to tie the game up, sending the teams into overtime.

Each team managed to score 10 points in the first overtime period, reluctantly sending the game into a second overtime, with Williams having scored 5 of those 10 points.

Second overtime again brought out Williams and sophomore guard Tara Thompson to score the majority of points, pushing the Seawolves past Western Washington at 75-72.

Overall, Williams put 31 points total into the game, helping lead the Seawolves to 22 straight wins.

Saturday, Feb. 25 vs. Simon Fraser

In a change of scenery, the Seawolves moved from Bellingham, WA to Burnaby, BC to take on GNAC No. 3 Simon Fraser.

Although the team is ending up just as successful this season as they were last season, the seniors and Alysha Devine know that things have changed.

“Last year, we went in and we were basically just playing not to lose, but also not to win. This year it’s just a different mindset, we go in and we just want to get the win and keep this going,” Devine said.

With an unusual slow start, the Seawolves let Simon Fraser spike the first lead of the night early on. Quickly enough, Shelby Cloninger and Thompson stepped and pushed the lead out of Simon Fraser’s favor.

The Seawolves slowly paced their lead, but not enough to stay safe by the end of the first quarter, at only a 4 point lead, 15-11.

The second quarter only proved to set the Seawolves back even more. Even though seven of the Seawolves managed to get in at least one point, Simon Fraser was able to match them for almost all of them. Williams got in the last 2 points before halftime, leaving the Seawolves only at 38-33.

Coming into the second half, the Seawolves had a lot more pressure put on them, causing the lead to switch quickly and dramatically. Many offensive errors led the Seawolves to miss points that Simon Fraser was then getting.

Halfway through the third quarter, the Seawolves continued trailing behind at 54-59.

In a turnaround, the Seawolves managed to redeem themselves before time ran out. Freshman guard Kimijah King and Colinger jumpstarting the beginning of the fourth quarter and Williams finishing it off getting the Seawolves to 77-72.

This pushed the Seawolves to 23 straight wins and leaves with the GNAC Championships to play in next. Now that the final regular week is over, head coach McCarthy is happy with the results.

“We are healthy, we are good. For us, I just want to see what we do and how we react when we are hit with some diversity,” McCarthy said.

The women take off again to Lacey, WA for the GNAC Tournament semi-finals on Friday, March 3.

April 10, 2016 Jordan Rodenberger

At 38-3, the UAA women’s basketball team just completed their best season in school history, and were arguably the greatest team Seawolf Athletics has ever assembled. From placing as the runner-up in the national championship game, to shattering 32 school records, to breaking five NCAA Division II records (including the 38 wins), the Seawolves had…

March 20, 2016 Nolin Ainsworth

Coach Ryan McCarthy made an unusual move in the third quarter of the NCAA Div. II West Region semifinal basketball game: play man-to-man defense.

The Seawolves have garnered widespread acclaim for their hyper-active, mayhem-style of defense that results in over 14 steals a game — best in the nation. But man-to-man defense was the only way he could think of to stop Cal Baptist’s lethal three point shooting.

After scoring 30 points off three’s through the third quarter, the Lancers (29-3) were held to just 6 in the fourth quarter and overtime period, and the Seawolves (35-2) won 82-79 to advance in the tournament.

Four out of five Seawolf starters hit double-digits in the overtime win. Senior Jessica Madison had 9 points in the first quarter and finished with 17. Alysha Devine added 15 points and 5 rebounds, and Great Northwest Athletic Conference Player of the Year Megan Mullings overcame a slow-start to finish with 10 points and 7 rebounds.

“We knew we had to play defense, we knew we had to get stops,” Mullings said during a phone interview. “It was just one of those things where we looked at each other and we were like, ‘This is not our last game ladies. There is no way this is our last game tonight. This is not how it’s going down.'”

Lancer Kamille Diaz scored 23 points to go along with 7 rebounds and 8 assists. Cassidy Mihalko’s double-double included 18 points and 12 rebounds.

The Seawolves trailed just 36-39 at the half, but the Lancers outscored the Seawolves 20-17 in the third quarter to keep UAA at bay.

“Our ladies showed a lot of poise down the stretch, there wasn’t any panic, and we didn’t do anything out of character,” McCarthy said.

The Seawolves missed four field goals to start the fourth quarter and Nelson’s basket at 8:39 made it 61-53. UAA’s defense stiffened up, propelling UAA to a 7-0 run to make it 60-61 with 6:48 to play.

UAA took its first lead of the quarter on a Devine 3-pointer at 1:21. Mihalko answered with three of her own, tying the game at 70.

Kiki Robertson grabbed a Jenna Buchanan miss on the next possession and was fouled on her put back attempt. Robertson made both of her free throws, but the Lancers’ drew up a play for Diaz who beat several Seawolves on a drive to the basket, tying the game with 9 seconds remaining. Neither team could get a go-ahead bucket and the game went to overtime.

The Seawolves won the overtime tip and Mullings finished on a reverse lay up. Diaz answered back, but the Seawolves forced a shot clock violation on the Lancers’ next possession. Devine hit another huge bucket at 3:01 to put the Seawolves up 76-74.

Buchanan stole the ball but blew a lay up. The Lancers found Asher for three to go up 77-76.

UAA’s Madison got an inside bucket to go and put the Seawolves back on top. The Lancers couldn’t retake the lead on their next possession, and Buchanan’s jumper at 29 seconds made it a three point game. Cal Baptist missed two more late field goals, leading to UAA’s historic victory.

The Seawolves play fourth-seed UC San Diego Monday at 6 p.m. Alaska Daylight Time and can be streamed live at portal.stretchinternet.com/apu.

March 6, 2016 Jordan Rodenberger

They came, they saw and they conquered. The seawolves flattened Simon Fraser 82-47 before handling Montana State Billings 77-57 on their way to defending their Great Northwest Athletic Conference crown.

The Seawolves had lost their home finale against Simon Fraser on Feb. 27 and sought revenge in the semi-finals of the GNAC tournament.

“I think the next time we play them they will see a different team,” head coach Ryan McCarthy said at Tuesday’s press conference.

A different team they were. Although the previous two meetings this season versus the Clan were tight contests, this time, UAA never even let it become a game. Jumping out to an 8-0 lead, the Seawolves made a statement early and never let Simon Fraser within reach. With a halftime score of 42-18, the game was all but over.

Leading the beat down for the Green and Gold were Mullings and Alysha Devine, who contributed 17 points a piece. The smothering Seawolf defense forced 27 turnovers and held Simon Fraser to making just a third of their shots.

“We came into this game really focusing on making sure we were attached to their shooters and limited their good looks from the three-point line,” McCarthy said.

UAA looked like themselves again, and big reason why was the return of Keiahnna Engel, who had missed the last five games due to a knee injury.

“Its nice having someone that has the skills of a guard that can play defense like a post player,” Megan Mullings said.

Regardless of the convincing win, the Seawolves still had Montana State standing in their way of the GNAC title.

The Seawolves began the championship game rather sloppy, coughing up the ball eight times in the first quarter but still found themselves leading 35-30 at halftime.

UAA settled down after the break, and outscored the Yellowjackets 26-17 in the third quarter. The Seawolves gradually extended their lead and came out on top with a 20-point win.

In just 15 minutes, Keiahnna Engel totaled an efficient 13 points (5-6 FG) and dished off 4 assists in the title game. Kiki Robertson had a tournament-high 9 assists, while Jessica Madison chipped in 12 points and 4 steals. Forward Dominique Brooks finished with a team-high 6 boards and helped elevate UAA off the bench, but gives credit to her fellow Seawolves.

“It all goes to my teammates, they just kept me into the game and kept giving me confidence and motivation that no matter what happens we got it together,” Brooks said.

As for Montana State, guard Marissa Van Atta tallied 17 points to go with her 10 rebounds and 4 steals. Alisha Breen had 17 points of her own, while no other Yellowjacket had more than 6 points.

By adding a GNAC championship to their resume, the Lady Seawolves look to host the first round of the NCAA Division II tournament at the Alaska Airlines Center.

February 14, 2016 Nolin Ainsworth

For a team who entered the week leading the country in margin of victory (+29.9 points), outing a team by only 8 points is an unusual feeling for Ryan McCarthy’s Seawolves.

A win is a win though, and UAA (28-1, 15-1 GNAC) remained perfect at home in a 69-61 victory over the Central Washington Wildcats (15-9, 8-8 GNAC) Saturday.

Forward Megan Mullings led all Seawolves with 18 points, 10 of which were earned at the foul line. Central Washington’s Jasmin Edwards matched Mullings point total – shooting 4-of-6 shooting from the three point line.

After dropping 52 points in two quarters on Thursday against a helpless a Northwest Nazerene (see below), the Seawolves played much more “human” on Saturday. UAA made 13 field goals through two quarters against the Wildcats, and clung to a 30-26 halftime lead.

The Wildcats remained within striking distance throughout the third frame, proving the first two quarters were no fluke. With under two minutes left in the quarter, Mandy Steward’s free throw tied the game at 41-41.

With forward Alysha Devine sidelined due to illness and the three-ball unfriendly for Jenna Buchanan (11% shooting), Mullings took the game over in the fourth quarter. That’s when the senior scored a dozen points to finally put the game out of reach for the Wildcats with over a minute remaining.

January 24, 2016 Nolin Ainsworth

After outscoring Great Northwest Athletic Conference foe, St. Martin’s, 24-10 in the fourth quarter to secure win number 22, the Seawolves were in no rush for their lockers. Smiling and gesturing to fans, it was as if UAA was at its own political rally, and they had just delivered an awe-inspiring speech. One hundred feet away, their opponents were also slow to exit from the public’s eye, although instead of grins and laughs, the team from Lacey, Washington bore looks of exhaustion and fatigue, several nursing limps on their way into the tunnel.

The Seawolves (22-1, 9-1 GNAC) sent the Saints (5-12, 3-7 GNAC) packing with a 78-52 win Saturday night in front of 1,107 fans at the Alaska Airlines Center.

Alysha Devine tied her career-high of 19 points, Megan Mullings scored 10, and Adriana Dent had 5 steals to help UAA remain unbeaten at home this season. Saints Megan Wiedeman and Elin Johansson made the most of their combined seven trips to the free throw line, scoring 18 and 12 points respectively in a losing effort.

“In the second half we … did an excellent job of keeping our hands up, keeping people in front [on defense], just playing good fundamental basketball that way,” Coach Ryan McCarthy said. “I liked our energy and effort a lot better in the second half.”

The first half was a much closer game than UAA would have liked. After starting the game on a 9-2 run and going up 25-12 midway through the second quarter, the Seawolves got into foul trouble late in the half. Sophomore Sierra Afoa’s foul at 4:26 of the second quarter put the Saints into the bonus, which awards a team two free throws for every additional foul. The Saints, who shoot better than 70 percent from the line, scored 11 of 16 attempts in the first two quarters. At the half, St. Martin’s trailed UAA 35-29. McCarthy was visibly frustrated with some of the late foul calls from the sideline.

“One of the things we really talked about was limiting our fouls because this team was a very good free throw shooting team,” McCarthy said. “We just played into that and it caused the pace to slow down.”

The Seawolves would pick the pace back up in the third and fourth quarters, piling on the points. Many of UAA’s defensive rebounds translated into open offensive looks shortly thereafter. Point guards Kiki Robertson and Christina Davis used long rebounds and quick outlet passes to push the pace while simultaneously scanning the floor for open teammates.

St. Martin’s Elin Johansson picked up her fourth foul late in the third quarter and was forced to sit out the fourth, further hindering the Saints offense.

UAA’s Devine began heating up in fourth quarter, making several nice cuts to the basket for lay ups. The sophomore from Wasilla even showed her range from three on a straight away jumper from long range that put UAA up 70-44 at 5:05 of the fourth. By that time, McCarthy had pulled most of his starters from the game, including Jessica Madison (13 points) and Robertson (6 points, 6 assists).

UAA play at Alaska Fairbanks at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 26, and are headed to Billings, Montana to face the Montana State Yellowjackets on Saturday, Jan. 30.

January 24, 2016 Jordan Rodenberger

The Lady Seawolves found themselves back atop the No. 1 spot in Division II women’s basketball this past Tuesday, and rightfully so. Their first game as the new highest ranked team came against the Seattle Pacific Falcons on Thursday night, who are coming off an overtime loss to Western Washington the week before.

Those who are fans of defense appreciated the first quarter, as a total of 6 points were scored in the first five minutes of the contest. The pace picked up in the second quarter and UAA got some much needed help from the sideline.

“The bench came in, they killed it, and got us going,” said junior forward Alysha Devine, who finished with 12 points and a pair of steals.

The Seawolves went on a 14-0 run in the second and stretched the lead to 43-27 by halftime with the help of a layup at the buzzer by senior Keiahnaa Engel.

The Seawolves looked much more like themselves at the start of the second half, forcing turnovers and getting out on the fast break. Seattle Pacific struggled shooting against the length of UAA, making only 26.7 percent of their shots for the game. The Seawolves opened the flood gates in the third quarter, and did not look back.

UAA played a safe, efficient fourth quarter and came away with a 82-47 victory. The Seawolves absolutely dominated the inside, outscoring SPU 56-10 in points in the paint. Senior Megan Mullings notched 20 points and grabbed nine boards for UAA, both game-highs. Seattle Pacific guard Courtney Hollander was the lone Falcon with double-digit points, totaling 12 and added seven rebounds. With nine points against SPU, senior Jessica Madison climbed into the top 10 on UAA Women’s Basketball career scoring list.

Seattle Pacific led for just 11 seconds the entire game, when the score was 2-0 early in the meeting. They were, however, without their leading scorer, Jordan McPhee, who was injured just days before the team made the trip up to Alaska.

The Lady Seawolves will remain No. 1 in the nation following the win, something they are very accustomed to.

“It is a target on our back, and the other team is playing for something they can tell their kids about,” said head coach Ryan McCarthy.

UAA will travel north to Fairbanks for an in-state rival game against the Nanooks on Tuesday. The Seawolves won their previous meeting 78-56 at home in December.

November 29, 2015 Nolin Ainsworth

Ivy Brown had already made eight free throws when she toed the charity stripe one last time with two seconds remaining in Wednesday’s GCI Great Alaska Shootout championship. Brown’s Western Kentucky Lady Toppers needed only one more point to ice the game and secure their first-ever Shootout championship. After clanking her first shot off the iron, Brown made her second, and Western Kentucky walked away with a 62-58 victory over the Seawolves. Brown finished the night with 21 points and 12 rebounds while teammate Kendall Noble chipped in 12 points and 5 assists.

“I struggled a lot last year with focusing on scoring, scoring, scoring,” Brown said, “Me and my coach have just talked a lot about doing other things for the team…”

After winning handily against Pepperdine last night, the Seawolves were given a rigid test by the Division I Lady Toppers who play in Conference-USA. Preseason Great Northwest Athletic Conference Player of the Year Megan Mullings led the Seawolves with 15 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Mullings did most of her damage in the first half and was nearly scoreless in the final quarter.

After scoring the first bucket of the game, the Seawolves fell behind for most of the next two quarters. Senior Keiahnna Engel’s layup with 2:30 remaining in the half put the Seawolves back on top, 28-27. The two teams traded buckets to close the half, but UAA held on to a 32-31 lead at halftime. However, the Seawolves would fall behind again in the third quarter. Seawolves head coach Ryan McCarthy was not satisfied with his team’s execution.

“We just didn’t follow our game plan — even remotely close,” McCarthy said, “I was very disappointed in our effort. Our effort, I thought, was B+.”

“Our team has to hold ourselves to a higher standard — regardless of division — regardless of reputation. If we are going to reach the goals we have set for ourselves,” McCarthy said.

The visitors slowed the game down by drawing UAA fouls in the paint. The Seawolves were also out-rebounded 24-14 in the second half.

“We needed to scrap out rebounds and box out,” McCarthy said. “We did not do that.”

UAA’s three point specialists Jenna Buchanan and Jessica Madison finished with a combined 20 points on 4-12 shooting from long range. As a team, UAA shot 36 percent from the field in the second half.

“We talked about us being timid and us being scared,” Mullings said. “I think that was something that really affected us.”

The Seawolves begin their conference schedule on the road next week. Ryan McCarthy’s squad plays Simon Fraser next Thursday before crossing the border to play Western Washington over the weekend. The loss does not count toward UAA’s overall record.

November 15, 2015 Claire Lubke

Basketball is king for many youth in rural Alaska. A brightly lit gymnasium and rack of basketballs can serve as a refuge from the long winters and cold nights that characterize the far North.

Two of the Seawolves’ own grew up in this environment. Senior forward Christian Leckband of the men’s team was raised in Nome, Alaska and starred for Nome-Beltz High School from 2007-11.

Senior guard Jenna Buchanan was recruited by the Seawolves out of Galena, Alaska, a small village in between Fairbanks and Nome on the Yukon River. Buchanan played on the Galena High School team from 2008-2012 and helped the Lady Hawks win their first-ever state championship as a senior.

The similarities between Leckband and Buchanan don’t stop there. Prior to the start of the 2015-16 season, the two have played in the exact same number of college games: 83. The two also shoot the three ball with virtually the same precision. Over the past three seasons, Leckband has shot 39% from long range while Buchanan has shot 40%.

In an exclusive interview with The Northern Light (pages 16-17), TNL delves more deeply into the lives and basketball careers of these two Alaskans.

Jenna Buchanan

Position: Guard

Class: Senior

Major: Early Childhood Development

Minor: Special Education

TNL: What was distinct about growing up and playing basketball in a rural community?

Buchanan: “Well, basketball is huge in Galena and in all rural villages. It’s like that’s the only thing to really do. There’s school and then there’s basketball. That’s a big reason why I chose to play basketball — both my parents coached, so I was always around it. I would say growing up in a village is a big reason why I’m here at UAA. They [the Galena community] support athletics so much. I traveled to basketball camps and I played all through high school and junior high and it was all the fundraising that I did back at home that allowed me to go to those places. Their support is a big reason why I’m here and I chose to stay in Alaska, because I wanted to be close to home and be able to see people that I grew up and have them be able to watch me play.”

Who has been your biggest mentor regarding your basketball career?

“I’ve had several. When I was younger, there was this girl who used to babysit me and she also played basketball for my mom. She played at UAF actually. She’s a big reason why I chose to play basketball because I just wanted to be like her. And then my mom and my dad have been big with basketball — they both coached and both played. And then the coaching staff we have here [at UAA] has taken my development to a whole other level.”

How has UAA basketball contributed to your college experience?

“Playing college basketball is definitely hard because you are traveling so much and you have to keep up with school, but I really don’t know how much school I would’ve actually gone to had I not been a part of basketball. The reason I am going to classes and passing classes and doing the best in my classes as I can is so that I can play basketball. And then being a part of the athletic community here has really helped out with my college experience. I know so many people because the athletic community here is so big. I automatically have this friend group. And then having the teammates that I have just makes everything so much better.”

What’s the hardest part about being a student athlete?

“The traveling is the hardest part. We have about five days at Christmas to go home and then we don’t get a spring break at all. That’s kind of hard, you know? Our season is seven months long, including preseason, and so not being able to go home and visit is definitely hard, but the traveling during school aspect is definitely hardest. Our teachers here at UAA are so helpful — we tell them right away ‘You know these are the days we are going to be gone,’ and they work with us so that we can achieve as high as we can in those classes.”

What do you want out of your Senior basketball season?


“The ultimate goal is to win a national championship. Last year, we were able to be number one in the nation. We were able to host the West regions here and then we ended up losing in the first round. So, you know, on this last go around, it would be nice to finish out on a win and to be a national champion.”

What’s the UAA Seawolves women’s basketball been like since you’ve been playing? How does this year’s team compare?

“My freshman year here was actually a very unique year. We had a brand new coaching staff, so our coaches now have actually only been here for four years as well. So it’s been a learning experience — I think for everyone. To see where we were our freshmen year to now is crazy. I don’t now what to say so far about this year — we’re five games in and we’re 5 [wins] and 0 [losses]. Last year, we had a pretty good record with 29 and 2 which is unbelievable. I think my freshmen year we only won 17 games, so it’s a big jump. It’s nice to see the growth and where we’ve come in these four years.”

What do you attribute the improvement in the team over the last four years to?

“Well, our freshman year we got a new coach and it was pretty late in the year, like right when school started. A lot of players had left the year before, so we had about seven players and that was it, that’s what we had to work with. So the next year, the coach was able to recruit players and slowly build what his vision of the program was to be. So a lot of it has to do with that — the building of the vision. We have seven seniors this year, so leadership is huge. We have two of us who have gone through four years here — and some that are here for their first year, but a lot of us have been through the system for a couple years now and I think that really helps. We know what is to be expected.”

What are your plans after you graduate?

“So I have one more year and then, I don’t really know what I want to do. I don’t know if I want to jump right in to teaching. I might to just get a job for a while and kind of just, live my life a little bit. Being in college sports, and my whole life, everything has been devoted to basketball. Like, my summers, while yes, it is a free summer, I am still training every single day. I want to hang out for a while. I want to have a job that doesn’t commit me somewhere forever.”

What’s your favorite part about playing basketball?

“My favorite part about playing basketball is the competition part. I love seeing the other team, there, in their jerseys, and knowing that we’re about to go to war with this team.”

What has been your favorite shootout memory thus far?

Beating UC Riverside in double over time in 2013.”

Who is your favorite basketball player?

“Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors.”

What do you, in particular, bring to the Seawolves Women’s basketball team?

“I think something that I bring to the team would probably be leadership. I’ve been here for four years, under the same coaching staff, and I know what is to be expected.”

Have you had a favorite class at UAA?

“My favorite class was my English class my freshman year. It was just a lot of fun. She [my teacher] made it very fun and I learned so much. It was a great way to start of my transition to college.”

November 15, 2015 Victoria Petersen

Each year in Alaska, hundreds of women’s high school basketball players take to the court all across the state. In the Anchorage bowl alone, roughly 100 girls will suit up for a local squad. Of the eight high schools that compete in Alaska’s Cook Inlet Conference, Dimond High School in particular has a knack for sending its players on to the collegiate level.

This season, the UAA women’s basketball teams boasts four Dimond alumni on the roster: freshman Tara Thompson and Rohyn Huss, sophomore Sierra Afoa, and senior Keiahnna Engel. All four women played for the maroon and gold at various times over the past eight years. In that span of time, the Lady Lynx earned state tournament berths every year, and finished runner-up in 2013 before winning it all last spring.

“[Dimond coach] Jim Young has done an excellent job preparing his young ladies for the college game and elevating his program to an elite level in Alaska,” Seawolves coach Ryan McCarthy said in a May press release.

Every year, Young takes his teams to out-of-state tournaments, allowing his players to see first hand the skill of the game in other parts of the country.

“Coach Jim Young at Dimond High School holds our varsity program to a high standard,” Huss said. “He knows what it takes to be a college athlete.”

Thompson adds that it helps he has a few college coaches in his contact list that he talks to from time to time.

“He knows a lot of college coaches so that also kind of helps in the process in getting your name out there,” Thompson said.

Thanks in part to Young, Thompson and Afoa can continue to play basketball on the same team, prolonging the time they have played with each other.

“Me and Sierra have played with each other ever since we were like in third or fourth grade,” Thompson said. “[We] have just built that chemistry all the way up until now.”

Basketball has served as a catalyst for the friendship between all four.

“Not a lot has changed between us, we’re all super close, it’s just a faster pace game,” Afoa said.

November 15, 2015 Claire Lubke

In 1977, a spirited man named Bob Rachal became UAA’s head coach, appointed by then Chancellor, John Lindauer. Rachal, with his big personality and big ideas, not only redefined UAA’s current basketball team — from the Sourdoughs to the Seawolves — but also pioneered the future of basketball in Alaska.

Rachal noticed that the NCAA had a regulation stating that any games played outside of the lower-48 would not count towards season records. With this information, he proposed the Seawolf Classic — an event in which Division I schools would be invited to play the UAA Seawolves in Alaska, before (and without penalty) to their regular season. The Division I schools were compensated to play in Alaska and got to play their favorite game in a unique place, while UAA got to host an unprecedented level of basketball in their home and for their fans.

While Rachal left UAA due to a recruiting scandal before the first event, in 1978, his vision came to life. In 1979, Billy Packer, a commentator of the second annual Seawolf Classic, unintentionally renamed the event, coining the term, “The Great Alaska Shootout.” Over the next few years, the Shootout increased in popularity and notoriety, especially with the opening of the new, state of the art, Sullivan Arena in 1983, which could seat nearly 8,000 fans. In 1984, the Shootout turned its first profit and in 1985, ESPN began live broadcasts of the Shootout. College basketball fans all over the lower 48 watched games taking place in Anchorage, Alaska — still an unheard of dynamic today. Many consider this period from the mid 1980’s to the early 2000s to be the Shootout glory days.

“I remember being in awe of players like Ray Allen of UConn and Jeff Capel from Duke and feeling like I was in the presence of royalty when Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Indiana’s Bobby Knight walked onto the floor at Sullivan Arena,” said Mike Tunseth, in a commentary article for the ADN, on his first experiences with the Great Alaska Shootout.

The Shootout was one of the only tournament of its kind and it consistently attracted big name schools in basketball. In 1997, 52,000 people attended the Shootout over its four days — more than 20 percent of Anchorage’s population at the time.

Yet, by the mid 2000s, college basketball had become a big business and the NCAA had approved numerous exempt tournaments, mostly for various charitable causes. It became increasingly difficult to attract the same caliber of ball players. Then, for the 2006-2007 season, the NCAA changed its scheduling rules entirely, furthering competition for the Shootout. In the 2006 season, none of the teams in the Shootout made the NCAA’s Division 1 tournament for the first time in history. In 2007, ESPN stopped airing the Shootout and began hosting its own tournaments. By 2009, only six teams were recruited to play in the tournament, compared to the typical eight.

In 2011, the Alaska state legislature gave UAA athletics a $2 million grant to revamp the once thriving Shootout. This had a lot of Alaskans discussing its relevance — was the Shootout outdated? Was this something that Alaskans supported, personally, let alone financially?

While the answers to these questions remain up in the air, the Great Alaska Shootout is in its 37th year, and it has come to play. The Shootout got a new sponsor in 2014, when GCI replaced the 20-year sponsor, Carrs-Safeway. GCI has expressed their intent to revive the Shootout as a sold out event and a signature of Alaskans’ Thanksgiving weekend, without asking for state funds, and they’re well on their way, particularly with the help of the new Alaska Airlines Center. As the Sullivan Arena once did, the Alaska Airlines Center brings validity to the level of play available in the 49th state.

“[The Alaska Airlines Center] is right up there with the best of them,” Ryan McCarthy, UAA women’s head basketball coach, said. The Great Alaska Shootout has also entered a contract with Basketball Travelers Inc., a leading organizer for domestic and international basketball tournaments.

With all things, the future of The Great Alaska Shootout is unknown. Yet, the Shootout’s history doesn’t only tell of a time when UAA was able to attract high caliber basketball teams because of a fortunate NCAA policy, but it also captures a time when the people of Alaska celebrated and had a lot of fun with basketball in their state. That needn’t change. The men and women seawolf basketball teams play really competitively in their division — the women lead their region in the regular season last year — and the new Alaska Airlines Center is a great place to grab a bite and spend a cold evening inside, cheering with friends and family. Thanksgiving weekend is a great time to be thankful for the legacy of The Great Alaska Shootout and great basketball played by Alaskan student athletes.

March 19, 2015 Nolin Ainsworth

March Madness, commonly used to describe the nationally televised National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I Basketball Championship, has several “sister” tournaments organized in the same manner at the Div. II and III levels. Over the weekend, the UAA women’s basketball team hosted the regional tournament for one of these lesser-publicized, but equally mad, sister tournaments:…

March 5, 2015 Nolin Ainsworth

When Seawolf forward Megan Mullings checked out of last Thursday’s game against Seattle Pacific University for good, the Alaska Airlines Center gave what sounded like a preemptive ovation for the home team, still 130 seconds away from the final horn. It turns out they just wanted to show support for their star player, who scored…

March 5, 2015 Nolin Ainsworth

With Saturday afternoon’s 74-72 victory over Montana State University Billings, the UAA women’s basketball team completed their historic 2014-15 regular season, going 27-1, 17-1 in conference play — setting the program record for fewest losses in a season.

Following Saturday’s game, the Seawolves were presented with the 2015 Great Northwest Athletic Conference regular season title. But these ‘Wolves have their eyes on something greater, something that will be awarded in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, this years site of NCAA Div. II women’s basketball championships.

Although I have not watched this squad across the entire season, it didn’t take me long to notice there was something different about this team. I expected them to have talent, but I don’t think talent is the sole reason they won 27 of 28 games this season. How can it be? Players have off-games, get hurt, live lives outside basketball, have different work ethics. All these factors can affect the performance of individual players and teams. Given this, it would almost be impossible for the Seawolves to have done what they did with talent alone. But there is another ingredient. There is something else here.

Several years ago I read partway through “The Book of Basketball” by ESPN sportswriter by Bill Simmons. It is a colorful read written by an even more colorful personality. It is full of NBA history, as well as the players and teams who helped define it.

One of the chapters is titled “The Secret,” in which Simmons recounts a conversation he once had with Hall-of-Famer Isiah Thomas about what “the secret” is to basketball.

Simmons writes, “I set up the question and asked him. Isiah smiled. I could tell he was impressed. He took a dramatic pause. You could say he even milked the moment.’The secret of basketball,’ he told me, ‘is that it’s not about basketball.’ That makes no sense, right? How can that possibly make sense?”

Thomas observed that the teams who always seemed in the hunt for an NBA championship during his career, Boston and Los Angeles in particular, won games not just on talent alone. They were teams that got along with each other, understood their roles and cared more about the team winning, rather than one or two players getting the limelight.

What do you know? Basketball isn’t just assists and rebounds. It is also about sacrifice selflessness, loving one another and pretending as if everyone on the team is the star player.

That is what I see in the Seawolves this season. And that is why they’re winning like the Los Angeles Lakers of the 1980s.

February 26, 2015 Nolin Ainsworth

In sports, there is no shortage of average teams — teams that win some and lose some at about the same frequency. Very few are excellent. The UAA women’s basketball team is one of the few. Last Tuesday, the Seawolves rose to the top of the NCAA Division II Top 25 coaches’ poll. The Seawolves…

February 11, 2015 Nolin Ainsworth

The Seawolves shut the door early on visiting Western Oregon University on Saturday night and earned their 11 straight win in a 77-51 blow-out. With the win the Seawolves have clinched a playoff spot in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference tournament March 4-7. The Seawolves unrelenting defensive effort was on display all evening, disrupting any…

July 22, 2014 TNL Staff

Courtesy of UAA Sports Information

Release: July 16, 2014

Women's BasketballANCHORAGE – University of Alaska Anchorage women’s basketball head coach Ryan McCarthy announced his team’s schedule for the 2014-15 season – the Seawolves’ first in the brand-new Alaska Airlines Center – on Tuesday.

UAA, coming off an 19-9 campaign and an NCAA Tournament berth, opens Nov. 5 with an exhibition game at NCAA Div. I foe Utah.

The Seawolves host their home openers with regular-season contests against Holy Names and Chaminade in the GNAC/Pac West Conference Challenge, Nov. 14-15, followed by a pair of inter-region matchups against Christian Brothers (Tenn.), Nov. 20-21.

UAA will take the Alaska Airlines Center court for its annual GCI Great Alaska Shootout on Nov. 25-26, facing Yale in the first round and either Long Beach State or Boise State the next day.

December brings and early start to Great Northwest Athletic Conference play when UAA travels south for league games at defending champion Montana State Billings (Dec. 4) and longtime rival Seattle Pacific (Dec. 6). Five more home games dot the schedule for that month as the Seawolves face McKendree (Ill.) on Dec. 13-14, Texas A&M Kingsville and Pacific (Ore.) in the UAA Hoops Classic, Dec. 19-20, and West Region opponent Hawaii Pacific on Dec. 21.
The GNAC slate resumes with a New Year’s Day tilt against Northwest Nazarene and a Jan. 3 battle against Central Washington at the Alaska Airlines Center. Mid-January brings a key three-game homestand against Alaska Fairbanks (Jan. 17), Western Washington (Jan. 22) and Simon Fraser (Jan. 24), and February features home clashes with Saint Martin’s (Feb. 5), Western Oregon (Feb. 7), Seattle Pacific (Feb. 26) and MSU Billings (Feb. 28).

The fifth annual GNAC Championships move this year to the MSU Billings campus, Mar. 4-7, with the NCAA Div. II West Regional Championships set for Mar. 13-16 at a to-be-determined campus host site.

For season ticket information, contact the UAA Athletics Box Office at 907-786-1562 or[email protected].

December 10, 2013 Audriana Pleas

The UAA women’s basketball team knocked off nationally ranked Seattle Pacific University. The Seawolves dominated the Falcons the entire game. They managed to fend off a late SPU comeback eclipsing them 77-65.

The Seawolves are undoubtedly off to an industrious start in GNAC conference play. UAA is experiencing their second win of the week after their intergalactic performance against Montana State Billings Thursday night. The ladies drilled in 90 points to MSU’s 59. UAA’s record improves to 2-0 in the GNAC and 7-1 overall.

UAA stunned the sixth-ranked Falcons early on. Freshman point-guard Kiki Robertson had a powerful night on defense. Overall she finished with 7 points, 4 steals and 9 rebounds, in which 6 were offensive. Junior center Emily Craft had the most rebounds of the night, concluding the game with 13 and 10 points.

Teammate Alli Madison was the overall best player for UAA recording 21 points, 8 rebounds, and one steal. More importantly, A. Madison was a sharp shooter going 11 of 12 from the free throw line. Other notable accomplishments include sophomore guard Jessica Madison with 12 points and 6 rebounds. UAA’s senior forward Kyle Burns chipped in 8 points, 6 rebounds and went 4 of 4 from the line.

SPU’s Katie Benson put in a valiant effort finishing the game with 26 points and 12 rebounds. She also was perfect from the free throw line going 6 of 6. The Falcons Suzanna Ohlsen (10 points and 4 rebounds) and Brianne Lasconia (11 points and 4 rebounds) were consistent point contributors, but it was never enough. Maddey Pflaumer, just like Ohlsen and Benson, was perfect from the free throw line.

Something notable about this season is head coach Ryan McCarty has integrated his entire bench into rotation. All but three UAA players scored. Sophomore Jenna Buchanan finished with 10 points off the bench. This is Seattle Pacific’s first loss of the season.

UAA will host the AT&T Classic December 20 and 21 at the Wells Fargo Sports Complex. The Seawolf women will have about 13 days until their first match of 2014 as they travel down to Northwest Nazarene in Idaho after the tournament ends.

November 26, 2013 Web Editor

Here’s the Women’s and Men’s Great Alaska Shootout Schedule!

Also: get a break down with Thomas McIntyre and Mark Hoffman including stats on the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves (Women’s and Men’s), Georgetown University Hoyas, Nicholls State University Colonels, UC Riverside Highlanders, Indiana State Sycamores, University of Denver Pioneers, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Phoenix, University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane, Pepperdine University Waves, Texas Christian University Horned Frogs, and Harvard University Crimson.

November 5, 2013 Thomas McIntyre

Last week’s issue covered the men’s team and the x-factors that could decide their season. This week, it’s the women’s turn.

The 2013-14 Seawolf women’s basketball team is facing the ultimate challenge for college athletic programs: replacing star graduates. For the ‘Wolves, it’s guard Sasha King and forward Alysa Horn.