AZUSA, Calif. – Junior center Hannah Wandersee led four Seawolves in double figures with 15 points and the Alaska Anchorage women’s basketball team shot a season-best 58 percent Saturday to earn an 81-73 win over Humboldt State in the NCAA Div. II West Regional Championships semifinals at the Felix Event Center.
The 5th-seeded Seawolves (27-4) got 13 points on perfect shooting from sophomore point guard Yazmeen Goo, while junior guard Sydni Stallworth and freshman forward Sala Langi tallied 10 points apiece to advance their program to the regional finals for the second time in three years.
Nationally 13th-ranked UAA – the Great Northwest Athletic Conference regular-season co-champion – will play 7th-seeded and GNAC Tournament champ Montana State Billings (24-11) on Monday at 6 p.m. ADT/7 p.m. PDT for the right to play in the NCAA Div. II Elite Eight, Mar. 19-23 in Sioux Falls, S.D.
Humboldt State (19-13) got game highs of 18 points and seven assists from point guard Tyla Turner, but the California Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament champs could not capitalize on an early fourth-quarter advantage.
“That was an incredibly intense game and a great NCAA Tournament basketball game,” said UAA’s Ryan McCarthy, who captured his second straight GNAC Coach of the Year award this season. “Humboldt State is an outstanding team that plays with a lot of passion. Luckily we were able to match that tonight. We also had some players – Syd Stallworth, Tennae Voliva and others – step up at the most important times and deliver in a big way.”
In a game that featured eight ties, 12 lead changes and no double-digit leads, the Northern Californians scored the first five points of the fourth quarter to surge ahead 65-63. The Seawolves answered with an 8-1 run to grab the lead for good, snapping a 66-66 tie on Tara Thompson’s corner three-pointer at the 7:14 mark.
Wandersee nailed a pull-up jumper on the fast break to make it 74-71 with 1:34 left, but Humboldt’s Tyra Turner scored on a driving layup to keep the pressure on. UAA’s seniors rose to the occasion on the next possession when Rodericka Ware fed Shelby Cloninger in the post for a layup with 37 seconds left.
Humboldt guard Conde Isamar missed a potential game-tying trey on the other end and Goo grabbed the rebound and got fouled with 27 seconds showing. One night after hitting the game-winning basket with 1.7 seconds left in the 65-63 first-round win over Northwest Nazarene, Goo calmly sank both free throws. HSU would not score again as Wandersee finished by making three of four charities.
Goo shot 3 of 3 from the floor and 7 of 7 at the foul stripe, surpassing 100 free throws made this season, while Langi – a fellow Bay Area native – was 4 of 4 from the field, including a three-pointer and a traditional three-point play. Stallworth came off the bench with a timely 10 points in just 14 minutes, and senior guard Kaitlyn Hurley delivered eight points on 3-of-5 shooting.
Four different Seawolves grabbed exactly four rebounds to aid a 33-23 advantage on the boards, while their .857 (18 of 21) free-throw shooting was a season best as well. The Lumberjacks kept things close by committing just seven turnovers and grabbing 10 steals, along with .421 (8 of 19) three-point accuracy and 15-of-18 free-throw shooting.
Ware dished a team-high five assists with just one turnover, Cloninger had six points, three assists and four rebounds, and Voliva came one point shy of her personal high with six points (2-3 FG, 2-2 FT), plus four rebounds and a key block and steal in the second half.
“It’s exciting to be back here but we know we have another big challenge Monday night against a Billings team that we have the utmost respect for,” McCarthy added. “I think this tournament has proved what we thought all year as well – that the GNAC is the top league in the West.”
Monday’s title game will be streamed live at portal.stretchinternet.com/apu.
NOTES: This marks UAA’s sixth trip to the ‘Sweet 16’ of the NCAA Tournament, where it owns a 4-1 record … the Seawolves won regional titles in 2008, 2009, 2012 and 2016, advancing all the way to the national title game two years ago … MSU Billings last appeared in the West Region title game in 2014 when the Yellowjackets lost to host Cal Poly Pomona … the Seawolves swept the Yellowjackets during the regular season (81-60 on Jan. 6 in Billings, 73-63 on Jan. 1 in Anchorage) and own a 9-game winning streak in the series … UAA’s previous best shooting performances this season were a .565 field-goal percentage at Simon Fraser on Dec. 29 and a .857 (12 of 14) free-throw percentage against SFU on Jan. 27 … Langi scored double figures for the fourth time in the last five games, after producing just one 10-point effort through the first 26 contests … Wandersee – a unanimous first-team All-GNAC pick – moved into the top 20 on UAA’s career scoring list, now with 865 points … UAA improved to 5-0 all-time at the Felix Event Center, including three victories in the 2016 West Regional Championships.