ANCHORAGE – Hannah Wandersee scored 21 points and fellow senior Sydni Stallworth scored 19 points in a near-flawless performance Saturday to help 6th-ranked Alaska Anchorage claim the outright Great Northwest Athletic Conference regular-season title with a 69-51 women’s basketball win over Central Washington at the Alaska Airlines Center.
The Seawolves (27-1, 19-1 GNAC) also got 10 points and four assists from junior point guard Yazmeen Goo to claim their 20th straight victory and lock up the No. 1 seed for next week’s GNAC Tournament in Bellingham, Wash.
The Wildcats (17-10, 12-8) were led by 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting from forward Kaelie Flores, but the rest of the visitors combined to make just 13 of 48 attempts, suffering their 13th straight loss in the series. Central will be the No. 4 seed for the GNAC Tournament and will face Concordia-Portland on Thursday for the right to play UAA in Friday’s semifinal round at 11 a.m. AST.
“We came out on fire offensively, especially Syd, and our ball handlers did an amazing job of valuing each possession,” said UAA head coach Ryan McCarthy, whose team set a program record with just four total turnovers. “We got outhustled on the boards (45-32), but luckily that didn’t matter too much because of the low turnovers. I’m extremely happy for our seniors to go out with a victory on Senior Night as well – all of them made big plays in this one.”
Meeting for the first time since UAA’s 74-60 win in Ellensburg in the GNAC opener on Nov. 30, the Seawolves took control from the opening tip, claiming a 10-0 lead on baskets from four different players.
Stallworth was virtually unstoppable on the offensive end, making 7 of 8 shots and all three of her three-point attempts in the opening half, along with a pair of steals defensively. The senior from Arizona finished 8 of 9 from the field, with three assists and no turnovers in her final home game.
UAA led 43-33 at halftime and had to overcome an offensive lull in the third quarter, seeing its lead cut to 45-39 on a three-pointer from Bri Phiakhamngon at the 3:55 mark. Seawolf junior guard Safiyyah Yasin made a key steal and free throw to stem the charge, however, and Stallworth and senior guard Tara Thompson followed with consecutive baskets to spark a 10-1 run over the next six minutes.
Wandersee shot 8 of 17 from the floor and 4 of 4 at the foul stripe, while Goo shot 4 of 7, along with four assists and a pair of steals. Sophomores Sala Langi and Tennae Voliva led the Seawolves with six rebounds apiece.
With her fourth 20-plus effort of the season, Wandersee moved past former teammate Jenna Buchanan (1,277 pts, 2012-16) for ninth place on UAA’s career scoring list, now with 1,282 points.
Should UAA survive its semifinal battle Friday, the Seawolves would play for the GNAC Tournament title Saturday, Mar. 9 at 4:20 p.m. AST. All five games from the GNAC Tournament can be seen live online at gnac.tv.
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