BELLINGHAM, Wash. – Senior guard Tara Thompson led a huge Alaska Anchorage comeback with 16 points Saturday but second-seeded Northwest Nazarene made the big plays down the stretch to earn a 70-64 victory in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Women’s Basketball Championships title game at Carver Gymnasium.
The top-seeded and nationally 5th-ranked Seawolves (28-2) also got 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting from senior center Hannah Wandersee as they lost in the GNAC title game for the first time in six tries.
The nationally 9th-ranked Nighthawks (28-2) were led by 15 points, eight rebounds and three assists from tourney MVP Ellie Logan, plus 11 points and five rebounds from guard McKenna Walker as the Nampa, Idaho, program claimed its first GNAC tournament title.
“We did not commit ourselves to our defensive game plan in the first half, and you can’t do that and expect to win an elite-level game,” said UAA head coach Ryan McCarthy, whose team saw its 21-game winning streak snapped. “NNU played well and deserves this one. We will regroup and refocus for next week (in the NCAA Tournament).”
Coming off a 64-55 win over NNU on Feb. 28 in Anchorage that decided the league’s regular-season crown, UAA could not find any momentum in the first half Friday, falling behind 8-0 and 15-9 as the Nighthawks made their first six shots.
After seeing its lead sliced to 17-16, NNU answered with another 8-0 run and led 25-21 after the first quarter.
The Seawolves went scoreless for the next 6 minutes and 40 seconds as the Nighthawks forged their largest advantage at 38-21. UAA gained a bit of momentum before the half as Thompson sank a runner in the lane to make it 44-33 at the break.
Still trailing 49-38 midway through the third quarter, the Seawolves made their move behind a key three-pointer from Thompson and tough interior play from freshman Kimani Fernandez-Roy, who finished with nine points and eight rebounds.
Senior guard Sydni Stallworth gave UAA its first lead of the night at 54-53 with two free throws to start the fourth quarter, and the Seawolves held a 62-59 edge after two free throws from Safiyyah Yasin at the 5:17 mark.
Tied 64-64, the Nighthawks took advantage of a Seawolf turnover to earn the go-ahead free throws from Danielle Jardine with three minutes remaining. UAA would not score again as NNU clinched it on a jumper from Logan and two late free throws from Marina Valles.
Having suffered their lone two losses to NNU, the Seawolves will likely earn a No. 3 seed when the NCAA Div. II West Regional Championships bracket is announced Sunday at 6 p.m. ADT at ncaa.com.
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