ELLENSBURG, Wash. – Junior center Hannah Wandersee scored 20 points and the 4th-ranked Alaska Anchorage women’s basketball team erased a 14-point deficit Saturday to earn an 84-72 win over Central Washington at Nicholson Pavilion, claiming a share of its fourth consecutive Great Northwest Athletic Conference title.
The Seawolves (25-3, 18-2 GNAC) also got 13 points, seven rebounds and four steals from sophomore point guard Yazmeen Goo, while freshman guard Sala Langi added a career-high 13 points in the comeback.
The Wildcats (15-13, 11-9) were led by 20 points from forward Sadie Mensing and a 13-point, 10-rebound effort from center Taylor Baird, but the hosts could not hold on to their 30-16 lead in the second quarter.
“We came out flat in the first half and Central shot quite well to put us in a hole, but our ladies responded very well,” said UAA head coach Ryan McCarthy, whose team is now 79-5 in GNAC regular-season and tournament games over the past four seasons. “Our seniors made some clutch plays down the stretch, Hannah provided us with a big presence down low, and Yazzy was unbelievable. Sala Langi also stepped up and made a huge contribution, especially for a freshman in such an important game.”
The Seawolves led only briefly, 10-7, in the first quarter, before the Wildcats unleashed a dazzling shooting display. Down 33-19 at the 8-minute mark of the second quarter, UAA began its comeback on a layup by Wandersee and a traditional three-point play by Langi.
Central’s Rachel Laurentson nailed a three-pointer for the first points of the second half and a 42-32 lead for the hosts, but the Seawolves surged back to tie it in less than five minutes. Goo made it 49-49 on a fast-break layup, and Wandersee converted a feed from senior guard Kaitlyn Hurley to take the lead for good.
Clinging to a 62-59 edge with 8 minutes to play, Langi drove for another layup and senior forward Shelby Cloninger swished a trey from the corner on another feed by Hurley.
Wandersee dished to Hurley for a three-pointer to cap UAA’s surge with 6:09 remaining, grabbing a 73-61 lead.
Wandersee shot 8 of 13 from the floor and 4 of 4 on free throws to post her sixth career 20-point line. She also nabbed six rebounds.
Goo shot 5 of 6 from the field to help the Seawolves to a 51.7 percent shooting night, along with just nine team turnovers. A Bay Area native like Goo, Langi shot 3 of 5 from the field and was 7 of 9 at the foul stripe.
Cloninger collected eight points and a team-high eight rebounds, and junior guard Kian McNair scored eight points (3-6 FG) and made three critical steals during the comeback. Senior guard Rodericka Ware had five assists and no turnovers.
UAA now owns six GNAC regular-season titles since the league was founded in 2001-02, and it marks the Seawolves’ ninth conference title overall, along with three from the 1980s in the old Continental Divide Conference.
The Seawolves – who host the GNAC Tournament March 1-3 at the Alaska Airlines Center – have now reached 25 wins for the fourth straight season.
Co-champion Northwest Nazarene will be the top seed for the GNAC Tournament by virtue of its tiebreaking 2-0 record against third-place Seattle Pacific, while UAA will be the No. 2 seed. Both will receive byes into Friday night’s semifinal round, with NNU tipping against the 4-vs-5 quarterfinal winner at 5:15 p.m., and UAA playing the 7:30 p.m. nightcap against the 3-vs-6 winner.
For GNAC Tournament tickets, call 907-786-1562, or visit GoSeawolves.com or AlaskaAirlinesCenter.com.