BILLINGS, Mont. – Sophomore Teancum Stafford scored 16 points, including the game-winning three-pointer with 6.7 seconds remaining, to lift the Alaska Anchorage men’s basketball team to a school-record comeback in Saturday’s 71-69 win over Montana State Billings at Alterowitz Gymnasium.
The Seawolves (18-8, 11-7 GNAC), ranked No. 9 in the NCAA Div. II West Region, also got a career-high 16 points from freshman forward Christian Leckband as they erased a 22-point first-half deficit. The win gives UAA a sweep of the regular-season series and clinches the No. 3 seed for next week’s Great Northwest Athletic Conference Tournament.
Senior Liam Gibcus helped UAA to a 32-22 edge on the boards with 10 points and 11 rebounds, giving the 6-10 center his third double-double in the last three games. The Seawolves’ comeback was their largest ever from a halftime deficit on the road, surpassing a 13-point rally at Chaminade on Dec. 15, 2003.
The Yellowjackets (16-13, 9-9) were led by 21 points from guard David Arnold, who powered his team to a 37-15 advantage with 6:30 left in the first half. MSUB made 9 of its fist 15 three-point attempts and led 44-27 going into the break.
UAA responded with a 15-2 run to start the second half, though, and pulled within 55-53 on two free throws by Kyle Fossman at the 8:19 mark. The Yellowjackets seemed to retake the momentum with a 9-1 run of their own, making it 64-54 with 5:32 left, but the Seawolves would not go away.
Leckband hit a three-pointer and added a pair of free throws a couple minutes later to slice it to 66-52 with 2:42 remaining, and Stafford would do the rest.
Stafford converted two more charities and a layup, then drew a shooting foul on MSUB forward Robby Trabing with 1 minute remaining. The 6-5 guard from Auburn, Wash., coolly converted both shots again to give UAA its first lead since the opening seconds at 68-67.
MSUB’s Jarrell Crayton rattled in a short baseline jumper to put the hosts ahead again, setting up UAA’s final chance with 31 seconds remaining. As the clock wound down, Seawolf point guard Colton Lauwers fired a perimeter pass to Stafford, who hesitated before swishing a spot-up three from wing.
UAA appeared to have the game clinched when Jalen Little deflected a steal to Abebe Demissie, but Demissie was called for traveling with one second on the clock. Seawolf coach Rusty Osborne put 6-9 Collin Spickerman on the floor to guard the final inbounds pass, which went off Arnold’s hands as time expired.
Fossman finished with nine points and five rebounds, while Demissie had seven of his eight points in the first half to keep UAA within shouting distance.
“Our guys proved tonight that they are high-character individuals,” said Osborne. “You can’t make a comeback like that without a strong will and the right attitude. I thought everyone played his role in the second half and our defense started keying our offense. Hopefully we can carry this momentum with us to the GNAC Tourney.”
After a quick trip home, the Seawolves will travel again next week to Lacey, Wash., where they will face No. 6 seed Central Washington in the GNAC Tournament quarterfinals on Thur., Mar. 7 at 4:15 p.m. AST.
NOTES: Fossman, who played with a wrap on his injured right hand, had his string of 31 straight games with a three-pointer snapped, leaving the 6-foot junior from Haines with the third-longest streak in program history … UAA’s halftime comeback matched the third-largest in program history and the largest ever in a GNAC game; the Seawolves rallied from a 51-34 hole for a Jan. 2004 home win over Northwest Nazarene ... UAA has been runner-up in the first to GNAC Tournaments.