March Madness is upon us, and the Seawolves (21-11) were on the outside of the NCAA Division II tournament looking in entering the weekend. Sitting at the 10th spot in the NCAA West Region rankings, where the top eight teams get in, UAA likely had to win the Great Northwest Athletic Conference tournament to solidify it’s position in the “big dance.”
Heading into the tournament as the third seed in the conference, UAA matched up against sixth seeded Western Washington University (16-14). The Seawolves had already taken down the Vikings twice this season by just three points on both occasions.
“I expect it to be close again…they are a good team and very talented” said Seawolves’ head coach Rusty Osborne prior to the contest.
Osborne was correct in his prediction, however it was his team that fell short this time, 78-73 in the first round of the one-and-done GNAC tourney. The Seawolves shot just 37.9 percent from the field, including 20 misses from three-point land. Suki Wiggs, the winner of the GNAC Newcomer of the Year award, finished with 20 points and collected 12 rebounds while Brian McGill produced 16 points in his last game as a Seawolf.
The loss officially puts UAA’s season to rest, one that was filled with plenty of “if only” and “so close”.
“It is not like we were blasted out of a bunch of games. Every game except the Billings game has been a one possession game at the end.”
The same would hold true to this game as well.
Despite trailing by as many as nine points in the second half, the Seawolves did not lay down. The Green and Gold rallied back to take a 53-49 lead with just under 12 minutes remaining in the game. After exchanging several baskets and forcing many ties, the Vikings grasped on to a three point lead with 11 seconds to go. UAA senior guard Brian McGill sliced through the defense to create an open shot for the GNAC’s leading scorer Wiggs in the corner for three, but Wiggs didn’t get the bounce, and the ball fell into the hands of WWU, concluding the Seawolves’ season.
Jeffrey Parker led the charge for the Vikings, hitting five trifectas on his way to pouring in 31 points. Senior Ricardo Maxwell’s all around performance of 18 points, six rebounds, and six assists propelled Western Washington to victory, but they knew it wasn’t going to come easy.
“Anchorage is a great team with tremendous players” said Western Washington’s head coach Tony Dominguez after the game, “Rusty is obviously a great coach so its always going to be a battle.”
This was the fourth straight season that the Men’s basketball team was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament. Western Washington would go on to lose to Alaska Fairbanks the next night, advancing the Nanooks to the finals, where they would ultimately be defeated by Western Oregon 78-71.
The Seawolves have to watch the NCAA tournament from home, but having lost only two seniors this season, UAA looks to redeem themselves during the 2016-17 campaign.