LACEY, Wash. – Alaska Anchorage’s league
player-of-the-year Taylor Rohde posted a double-double but the hot three-point
shooting of Montana State Billings sparked a late comeback to give the
Yellowjackets a 74-70, upset victory over the Seawolves in the Great Northwest
Athletic Conference Tournament title game at Marcus Pavilion on Saturday.
The nationally 15th-ranked and 2nd-seeded Seawolves got 15 points and 10 rebounds from Rohde, plus 16 points, four rebounds and four assists from senior point guard Steve White, however the league’s best-shooting team shot an uncharacteristic 39 percent from the field.
Meanwhile, the 5th-seeded Yellowjackets (18-11) were led by 16 points and 10 rebounds from tournament MVP Robert Mayes as they captured the GNAC’s automatic NCAA Tournament bid. Point guard Jaxon Myaer added 15 points on 5-of-10 three-point shooting and five assists, and reserve forward Taylor Stevens had 15 points on 5-of-7 long-range marksmanship to propel MSUB into the ‘Big Dance’ for the first time since joining the GNAC in 2007-08.
“We didn’t shoot very well and we didn’t defend well in the second half,” said UAA head coach Rusty Osborne. “I give Billings a lot of credit for an extremely gutsy performance and congratulate Coach (Jamie) Stevens on a big victory for his program.”
The Seawolves used a 12-0 run late in the first half to earn a 35-28 lead at the break, and then followed with a seven-point spurt out of the locker room.
MSUB slowly cut into the lead, however, behind the shooting of Myaer and Stevens, plus the strong interior play of Mayes. The Yellowjackets took their first lead of the second half, 50-49, on Preston Richards’ layup with 9:10 remaining.
The Seawolves retook the momentum on three straight three-pointer by Travis Thompson in a 56-second span and UAA held a 68-61 lead with 3:08 left on a trey by White. Stevens and Myaer answered back with consecutive threes of their own to make it 68-67 in favor of UAA, and Antoine Proctor made a go-ahead trey at the 1:09 mark.
After a Seawolf turnover, the Yellowjackets clinched the game from free throw line as guard David Arnold went 4 of 4 in the last 49 seconds.
Thompson shot 5 of 7 from three-point range and finished with 15 points, and fellow sophomore guard Kyle Fossman had five assists and no turnovers in the loss. Reserve forward Abebe Demissie added nine points – all in the first half – and seven rebounds.
UAA, ranked No. 2 in the final regular-season West Region poll, will now wait until Sunday night to hear its name officially called for an NCAA Tournament berth. That announcement will come at 6 p.m. and can be viewed online at ncaasports.com.
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