Men fend off CWU, earn title shot
Thompson scored a game-high 24 points and White added 17 points and seven assists as the Seawolves (22-5) earned their third victory over the Wildcats (15-13) this year and avenged their setback to CWU in last year’s GNAC championship game.
UAA, the No. 2 seed, will now face the winner of the second semifinal between top-seeded Western Washington and 5th-seeded Montana State Billings on Saturday at 4:15 p.m. AST.
The Wildcats, the No. 6 seed, were led by 15 points from guard Jordan Coby and 12 points and seven rebounds from forward Jody Johnson as their season likely came to an end.
UAA got off to a hot start as Kyle Fossman knocked down a pair of early three-pointers to earn a 9-2 lead. The Wildcats quickly fought back to forge a 29-24 lead with 4:47 to play in the first half, but White scored four straight points to spark a game-deciding 17-2 run. Trailing 31-28, Lonnie Ridgeway and Thompson sank back-to-back threes to give UAA the lead for good, and the Seawolves got several big plays from reserves Abebe Demissie and Phillip Hearn to extend to a 41-31 advantage at the break.
UAA led by as many as 16 in the second half before the Wildcats made a late run. CWU got a short jumper in the lane from Lacy Haddock to slice it to an 80-74 game with 2:35 left, but could not get any closer.
Thompson, a Second Team All-GNAC selection, shot 8 of 12 from the field, including 5 of 7 three-pointers, and tallied three assists and two steals. Meanwhile, White topped his previous career-high by a point, shooting 4 of 6 from the field and 9 of 11 at the charity stripe.
GNAC Player-of-the-Year Taylor Rohde finished near his averages with 19 points (6-8 FG, 7-8 FT) and eight rebounds, while Fossman and Ridgeway scored 12 points apiece.
Demissie was a monster on the boards as well, grabbing a game-high nine rebounds. It was the second-most boards for the North Idaho transfer and his most against a fellow Div. II team.
“We didn’t play really well, and it was a pretty ugly game,” said UAA head coach Rusty Osborne. “We didn’t take care of the ball very well and had some breakdowns on defense – the things that we’re usually good at. But this group did the same thing they have done all year, being resilient and taking care of business.
“Travis is a tough-minded player, but so are all of our guys. Steve White fought through some cramps there late in the game, Abebe and Liam (Gibcus) gave us a lot of energy. Phillip Hearn also gave us huge minutes in the first half. It’s hard for those guys sitting on the bench, but they keep their heads up and you can see how important their contributions are.”
Saturday’s championship game will be aired live on ROOT Sports (DirectTV 687/DishNetwork 426 in Anchorage). The game will also be shown live on the big screen at The Peanut Farm, 5227 Old Seward Highway.
As always, the game can be heard on the radio, too, with Tom Steigleman calling all the action live on FM-93.7 KAFC.