UAA women’s basketball survives and advances, facing a major upset

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.

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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.