LA JOLLA, Calif. – Tournament MVP Hanna Johansson
had 20 points and seven rebounds Monday to lift 2nd-seeded Alaska Anchorage to
a 68-63 victory over top-seeded and host UC San Diego in the NCAA Division II
West Regional Women’s Basketball Championships.
The Seawolves (30-4), ranked No. 8 nationally, also got big games from all-tourney selections Kaylie Robison and Sasha King as they advanced to the NCAA D-II Elite Eight for the third time in five seasons. UAA will take on Midwest Regional winner Ashland (Ohio) in the national quarterfinals on Mar. 20 in San Antonio.
The nationally 4th-ranked Tritons (30-3) were led by 22 points from guard Daisy Feder and 17 points and five assists from region player-of-the-year Chelsea Carlisle, but the Seawolves held Carlisle to just five points on 2-of-7 shooting in the second half.
“We knew we had to take the air out of the ball and control the paint,” said UAA head coach Tim Moser, who is now 14-5 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, including 12-3 in the West Regional. “Every one of our kids gave us a championship effort.”
Junior Alysa Horn scored all nine of her points in the first half and Robison shot 4 of 4 from field to give UAA an early lead, and King – who finished with 13 points, five rebounds, four assists and just one turnover – nailed a three-pointer just before the buzzer to put the Seawolves ahead 38-28 at halftime.
After sitting most of the first half with two fouls, Johansson scored the first basket out of the break to give UAA its largest advantage.
Led by the long-range shooting of Feder, the Tritons sliced their deficit to 46-43 at the 14:28 mark, and the game would stay within two possessions the rest of the way. A layup by Lauren Freidenberg sliced it to 51-50 with 9:34 left, however Johansson answered with a three-point play, and the Tritons could never take the lead.
“We knew they would make a run,” Moser said. “If you don’t get back, they will burn you. “Gritt (Ryder) and Sasha did a great job of putting the brakes on, walking the ball up court and controlling the tempo. We needed to grind it out and keep it in the half court, and for the most part, we did.”
UCSD pulled within a single possession five times in the last six minutes, with Johansson answering with either a basket or free throws on each occasion. Leading 64-63 with 22 seconds left, the GNAC Player of the Year rebounded her own miss and was fouled by UCSD's Erin Dautremont on a non-shooting call. The 63 percent free-throw shooter calmly drained both ends of the one-and-one, and the Seawolves were able to set up on defense.
After Feder missed an off-balance three-pointer off the side of the backboard, the Tritons got a break when they forced a 5-second call on the inbounds attempt. Feder got off another try, but Seawolf senior forward Tijera Mathews was there for a clear block, and King grabbed the rebound.
Despite coming in 59 percent from the stripe, King also showed little nervousness, swishing the clinching free throws.
Robison finished with 10 points and six rebounds, while Mathews added four points and five rebounds to help the Seawolf bench outscore its Triton counterparts 15-0.
UAA won the statistical battle in shooting percentage (.462 to .421) and rebounding (39-26) as it prevailed despite forcing only four UCSD turnovers.
In San Antonio, the Seawolves will face the team with the nation’s longest winning streak as nationally 2nd-ranked Ashland enters with a 31-1 record after losing its season-opener. The Eagles defeated Wisconsin-Parkside 78-58 earlier Monday to advance.
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