LACEY, Wash. – Tournament MVP Haley Holmstead scored 19 points Saturday to lead 8th-ranked Alaska Anchorage to a 67-52 victory over Western Washington in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Women’s Basketball Championship title game at Marcus Pavilion.
The top-seeded Seawolves (27-4) also got 12 points and eight rebounds from reserve forward Tijera Mathews to repeat as champions and win the rematch of last year’s inaugural conference tourney.
The 2nd-seeded Vikings (21-7) suffered their third loss to UAA this year despite a game-high 21 points and 12 rebounds from forward Britt Harris.
“That was a battle,” said UAA head coach Tim Moser, who is now 5-0 in GNAC Tournament games. “I told our kids it was going to be a battle. I don’t think we were always in synch, but we found a way to win. We haven’t had a lot of these tests, so this was good for us tonight.”
UAA outshot WWU 52 percent to 28 percent from the field but could not pull away late thanks to the Vikings’ 17 offensive rebounds.
In a first half that featured three ties and 12 lead changes, the Seawolves struck with the last four points of the half – all by Holmstead – to take a 29-26 lead into the break.
The Vikings forged a 33-33 tie with 15 minutes left on a three-pointer by reserve guard Katie Colard, but UAA took the lead for good on the ensuing possession when GNAC Player-of-the-Year Hanna Johansson split a pair of free throws.
Harris nailed a jumper with 7:16 left to make it a 43-41 deficit and the Vikings twice more got within a single possession. WWU trailed 48-45 at the 5:26 mark before the Seawolves pulled away.
Johansson started the game-clinching run with a three-point play on an aggressive drive through the lane, and Kaylie Robison scored back-to-back layups to extend to a 57-47 lead with 3:34 on the clock. WWU would not get within single digits again.
Johansson finished with 10 rebounds and four rebounds and dished all three of her assists in the second half.
Robison had nine points on 4-of-6 shooting, eight rebounds and two blocks, and freshman guard Gritt Ryder tallied seven points, six rebounds and a pair of assists. Alysa Horn also came up big with eight points and three rebounds as the Seawolf bench outscored its counterparts 20-12.
“Tijera Mathews was great, especially in the first half,” Moser said. “She really made a difference with her energy and rebounding, in addition to her scoring. But I also can’t say enough about the job Kaylie Robison and Alysa Horn did in the second half, and we just found a way to win.
“When I look at the stat sheet, it’s surprising we won. You don’t win very often when your opponent takes 21 more shots and you turn the ball over 21 times, but we’ll take it.”
With the GNAC’s automatic NCAA Tournament bid secured, the Seawolves will now wait until Sunday’s 6 p.m. AST selection show to find out their seeding – and whether they have earned the right to host – for the NCAA West Regional Championships. The regionals are set for Mar. 9-12.