ANCHORAGE – Senior guard Rachel Shim scored 18 points and 3rd-seeded Seattle Pacific used big runs at the beginning of the first and third quarters Friday to earn a 74-65 upset of 2nd-seeded Alaska Anchorage in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Women’s Basketball Championships semifinals at the Alaska Airlines Center.
The nationally 9th-ranked Seawolves (25-4) got a career-high 14 points from freshman guard Sala Langi, but the hosts were outshot .532 to .393 and outrebounded 33-27 as they lost for the first time in 14 home games this season.
Shim overcame foul trouble to shoot 4 of 8 from the field and 8 of 8 from the free-throw line, while the regionally 6th-ranked Falcons (23-6) also got 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting, five rebounds, six assists and no turnovers from center Julia Haining.
SPU’s victory puts the Falcons into the GNAC tournament title game for the first time, where they will face 4th-seeded Montana State Billings – a 76-69 winner over top seed Northwest Nazarene in Friday’s early semifinal. Saturday’s title game tips at 7:30 p.m. at the Alaska Airlines Center and will be shown live on ESPN3/WatchESPN.
“I give SPU the credit for taking the game to us – they were the better team tonight,” said UAA head coach Ryan McCarthy, whose team was seeking its fourth consecutive GNAC tournament title. “They did the things it took to win, and we didn’t. We missed too many free throws and layups, and you just can’t do that in championship basketball and expect to be successful.”
UAA – ranked No. 3 in the NCAA Div. II West Region – fell behind 13-0 at the outset before rallying to take a 33-27 lead late in the first half. The Falcons closed with a 6-0 run to forge a halftime tie, and continued their momentum with a 7-1 surge to begin the third quarter.
The Seawolves trailed 44-41 when senior Kaitlyn Hurley drained two free throws at the 3:36 mark of the third, but they would go cold the rest of the period, allowing the Falcons to grab a 53-42 advantage.
UAA trimmed a 15-point deficit to 66-59 on a Hurley three-pointer at the 1:40 mark, and 66-61 on a Cloninger putback with 36 seconds left, before SPU clinched it from the foul stripe.
Hurley finished with 12 points on 3-of-5 shooting (2-3 3FG) and a pair of steals, and junior center Hannah Wandersee chipped in 10 points and three blocks.
Langi shot 6 of 10 from the floor as she tallied double figures for the third straight game. The Bay Area product (Oceana, Calif./Pacific HS) had 10 points just once in the first 26 contests of her college career.
The Seawolves will now wait until Sunday’s 6 p.m. AST NCAA Div. II Selection Show to find out their opponent and destination for next week’s NCAA Div. II West Regional Championships.