BURNABY, British Columbia – Senior forward Shelby Cloninger scored a career-high 26 points and grabbed nine rebounds Friday to help the 6th-ranked Alaska Anchorage women’s basketball team eke out an 84-79 victory over Simon Fraser at the SFU West Gymnasium.
The Seawolves (11-1, 4-0 Great Northwest Athletic Conference) also got big plays down the stretch from junior forward Hannah Wandersee with 13 points and senior guard Rodericka Ware with nine points, including the tiebreaking three-pointer with 3:13 remaining.
The Clan (5-6, 0-3) were led by 17 points apiece from Sophie Swant and Nicole Vander Helm, but the hosts were outshot .565 to .456 and outrebounded 37-25.
“That was a great test for our team tonight,” said UAA head coach Ryan McCarthy, who got at least two points from all 11 active Seawolves. “We really need to work on some defensive deficiencies right now, but it was good to see us move the ball well offensively, and our veterans – especially Shelby – really stepped up to get a hard-fought win.”
In a rematch of last year’s NCAA Tournament Second Round game – an 80-70 SFU upset of UAA in Anchorage – the Seawolves got revenge thanks to a season-high field-goal percentage, led by 12-of-19 shooting from Cloninger.
Despite forging a 55-41 lead with 5:15 left in the third quarter, UAA saw the Canadian squad finish on a huge run and grab a 64-63 lead on Tia Tsang’s three-pointer at the buzzer.
After falling behind 67-63, Kian McNair rattled off three points and Cloninger regained the lead with a three-pointer from the top of the key. The Clan used a 5-0 run to tie it 74-74, but UAA got the play of the game when Tara Thompson found Ware in the corner for an open three that earned the lead for good.
Clinging to an 81-79 edge in the final minute, UAA escaped when Tsang’s open three-point try bounced off the rim and into Wandersee’s hands with 12 seconds left. Wandersee made one of two free throws and UAA got the ball again thanks to an unsportsmanlike foul against Vander Helm.
Ware would miss both potential clinching free throws with 10 seconds showing, however Cloninger fought for an impressive offensive rebound and converted the putback for the game’s final score.
UAA earned its 24th consecutive regular-season GNAC victory despite shooting just 7 of 18 (.389) from the free-throw line and grabbing only seven steals. The Seawolves connected on 7 of 16 from long range, with Ware knocking down 3 of 5 and Cloninger hitting 2 of 4.
Junior guards Sydni Stallworth and McNair scored eight points apiece on combined 7-of-9 shooting, while freshman guard Nicole Pinckney dished all five of her assists in the first half. Senior guard Kaitlyn Hurley finished with four points and four assists, while Wandersee recorded a pair of blocks.
The Seawolves conclude the 2017 calendar with a 3 p.m. AST showdown against Western Washington (6-5, 2-1) on New Year’s Eve in Bellingham, Wash.