ANCHORAGE – Teancum Stafford scored a game-high 23 points, but the Alaska Anchorage men’s basketball team could not complete a second-half comeback Saturday as 2nd-ranked Western Washington scored the final eight points to earn a 63-57 victory at the Wells Fargo Sports Complex.
The regionally 8th-ranked Seawolves (17-7, 10-6 GNAC) saw their three-game winning streak despite 19 points and 10 rebounds from senior center Liam Gibcus in his final home appearance.
The defending national-champion and regionally top-ranked Vikings (25-1, 16-1) got 19 points – including the game-winning basket with 9 seconds remaining – from senior guard John Allen, plus 15 points from forward Paul Jones as they clinched at least a share of their second straight Great Northwest Athletic Conference title.
UAA trailed 32-25 at halftime and fell behind 41-28 on Jones’ jumper with 13:49 remaining. However Stafford answered with a three-pointer on the Seawolves’ next possession and Gibcus completed a traditional three-point play moments later to start a huge surge for the home team.
UAA finally pulled even for the first time since early in the first half when Stafford sank a short jumper to make it 50-50 at the 6:34 mark. After two more ties, the Seawolves took a 57-55 lead when Stafford double-clutched in the lane and banked it in with 1:21 to go.
WWU’s Cameron Severson drew a foul on the ensuing play and tied it with a pair of free throws, and UAA’s Colton Lauwers missed a three-pointer on the Seawolves’ next trip. Allen, who shot 7 of 14 from the floor, dribbled down the shot clock and calmly sank a short runner, leading to a Seawolf timeout with 5.8 on the clock.
The Vikings then drew a break when the Seawolves misfired on the inbounds pass, and Allen would sink the clinching free throws with 4.5 seconds showing.
The Seawolves’ loss was their sixth in a row against the Vikings and snapped a seven-game winning streak on their primary home court. UAA is now 29-3 at the WFSC in the last two and a half seasons, with two of those losses coming to WWU.
Gibcus and Stafford both shot 9 of 16 from the floor, while Stafford was 3 of 6 from long range and added four assists and five rebounds. Gibcus’ double-double was his second in as many games and fourth this season, helping the Seawolves win the rebounding battle 30-24.
Despite the loss, the Seawolves clinched at least a share of fourth place in the final GNAC standings, due to Montana State Billings’ earlier loss at Saint Martin’s on Saturday. UAA closes the regular season at nationally 5th-ranked Seattle Pacific (Feb. 28) and MSUB (Mar. 2). The Seawolves are currently tied for third in the 10-team league with Alaska Fairbanks, who plays the same opponents to close the year.
NOTES: Should UAA and UAF finish tied in the final league standings, the Seawolves would earn the higher seed for the Mar. 7-9 GNAC Tournament due to their head-to-head sweep of the Nanooks … Kyle Fossman nailed a late three-pointer to tie the game and extend his streak to 31 games in a row with at least one trey … Stafford extended his double-digit points streak to nine games, equaling his career-high 23 points from way back on Nov. 10 against Colorado State-Pueblo.