Jessica Madison was a rising high school basketball talent in Port Angeles, Washington the last time the UAA women’s basketball team advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight in 2009.
Now, seven years and a handful of accolades later, Madison and the senior-laden Seawolves are headed back to the NCAA Div. II women’s basketball Elite Eight. The senior guard averaged 13 points in UAA’s west region tournament in Azusa, California to help them get there.
After crushing UC-Dominguez Hills and grinding one out against Cal Baptist two nights later, the Seawolves faced the No. 5 Tritons on March 14 to decide the best of the west.
Dominating nearly every statistical category in final two quarters, UAA made up for a shaky first half to run away with a 72-57 win over the Tritons, who lost a 76-72 contest to UAA in December.
“It just shows even from the beginning of this year how far we have grown as a team,” Madison said of the wins. “We’ve all gotten so much better and really just bought into the system.”
All seven of UAA’s seniors saw minutes in the game. Madison and Keiahnna Engel chipped in 13 points, and Alysha Devine finished with 14 points and 8 rebounds. Second-team all-GNAC Kiki Robertson added 6 points and 4 assists.
The Tritons were carried by senior guard Jamie Katuna playing in her final game. The Div. I-transfer sank 20 points, recorded 6 rebounds and 5 assists. The other half of the senior class, first-team all-West region Farrah Shokoor, was held to just 8 points and 4 rebounds — a shell of her 16 and 12 averages.
“We didn’t give people the best show of what UC-San Diego basketball is,” UCSD head coach Heidi VanDerveer said. “And even more so than that, I’m extremely sad that this is the last time I’ll get to coach two wonderful people, which is Jaime and Farrah, obviously really talented players but even better people.”
The game got off to a sloppy start for both teams with a combined 11 turnovers in seven minutes.
Both teams cleaned up their play in the second quarter though. The Seawolves went on an 8-0 run midway through the quarter. Engel hit a three from the right corner and Madison picked up a fumbled Triton’s pass to hit Devine for another spot-up three.
But the Tritons used back-to-back threes to tie the game at 31-31 at 2:53, and the Seawolves went in to the locker room leading by 6 points at half.
The Seawolves put on a show in the third quarter, unleashing a barrage of threes, fast break points, and offensive rebounds to tip the game solidly in their favor. The Seawolves were up 15 by the end of the third quarter.
“We talked about finishing out possessions from a rebounding standpoint so we could continue to get the game at our pace,” UAA coach Ryan McCarthy said. “Every single defensive rebound, we have an opportunity to get a fast break bucket and make them work at transition defense.”
The Seawolves continued to push the pace in the fourth, slowly running the Tritons and Katuna into the ground.
After being presented with the west region trophy, the team took turns cutting down the net, something they would like to do once more this season April 4 in Indianapolis, Indiana, the site of the Div. II women’s basketball championship game. To get there though, they need to go through the Elite Eight in Sioux Falls.
“Throughout my college career I’ve had the same group of supporters and followers even from back home, my hometown of Port Angeles,” Madison said. “So it’s been nice — and of course my parents they were down in California and they’ll be in Sioux Falls.”
As will the spirits of the Seawolf faithful in Anchorage.
Francis Marion (24-8) will be UAA’s first test this Tuesday, March 22, at the Sanford Pentagon 3 p.m. ADT in the national quarterfinals. Stream the game online at NCAA.com/liveschedule.