The UAA men’s basketball team narrowed in on the end of their 2016-17 season at the GNAC Championships in Lacey, Washington. The season leading up to the tournament had proven to be successful, but it wasn’t enough to push them past No. 3 Western Oregon.
The Seawolves have officially been in season since late November, in that time playing a total of 29 games, 20 being conference games, but only losing eight games overall. This put them at a solid position in the conference at No. 2 overall, with a 72.4 percent win rate. In addition, the Seawolves have won every single home game that has taken place at the Alaska Airlines Center, totaling 16 games.
Although the Seawolves came into the GNAC Championships with a solid base to take on Western Oregon, the outcome was debatable from the beginning. The teams have only played each other twice before in the regular season, each winning one game a piece.
Being close rivals back to back ranks in the conference and in the West Region, the March 4 game only proved their competition even more, sending the teams into triple overtime.
As it’s expected, head coach Rusty Osborne and the team had to make some adjustments and specific preparations coming into the game.
“We have improved over the last week and a half… we’ve had a few slip ups along the way but we were able to identify things and make small changes and [I think we] benefited from it,” Osborne said.
The first half led neither team to the lead, although the Seawolves sparked the first 5 points quickly by senior forward Connor Devine and senior guard Diante Mitchell, the Wolves initially trailed behind until both teams battled back and forth for the lead.
Although both teams battled for the lead, they both also made many offensive errors, letting the game be a primarily defensive battle.
By the end of the first half, only four Seawolves had managed to get points in, all being seniors, including Devine, Mitchell, senior guard Spencer Svejcar and senior guard Suki Wiggs. UAA only trailed behind by 2 points, at 25-27.
Throughout the season, the team struggled with the changes that had been put into place, but senior forward Corey Hammell noticed the positive changes occurring during this game.
“We’re playing better together, it took a while for us to get to know each other and learn to play together, but we’ve made the adjustment and we [were] really clicking,” Hammell said.
The second half again proved to be a defensive battle. The offensive sides of both teams ended with many errors and again only had the same four Seawolves score for the remainder of the half.
The Wolves started off with an increasing lead, but only at most being 8 points ahead. With only two minutes left in the game, the Seawolves led 54-53 until Mitchell extended that lead at 13 seconds left to 55-53.
With almost no time remaining, it looked as if the Seawolves were going to pull through with the win. However, with two seconds left Western Oregon’s Evan Garrison got in a last second layup only to leave the teams at 55-55.
This put them teams in the first two overtime periods that resulted in nothing significant, the first overtime period ended at 62-62 and the second overtime period ended at 72-72.
To finish off the games, the Seawolves and Wolves battled it out for the third and final overtime period of the game.
Wiggs came in strong with the first four free throws of the period.
Quickly things began to look positive for the Seawolves, however, not even a minute later WOU took off. With only two minutes left in the game, the Wolves held a 7 point lead. The Seawolves tried to catch up but unsuccessfully.
Western Oregon finished off the third overtime period with a 7 point lead, leaving the Seawolves with a loss at 84-91.
Although the team was disappointed with the outcome, Osborne reflected that the future isn’t set and stone yet.
“It’s one of those things that if you win you keep playing, if you don’t then we don’t really know, we’re right on the cusp of eighth [place],” he said.
The Seawolf men’s NCAA playoff future was announced along with tournament brackets on Sunday night after publication of this edition.