Yellowjackets Lead Buzz Towards Holiday Break
Montana State Billings forward Alisha Breen ranks second in the GNAC with 18.5 points per game.
Montana State Billings forward Alisha Breen ranks second in the GNAC with 18.5 points per game.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

‘JACKETS CONTINUE TO BUZZ: Montana State Billings won its four straight game on Saturday, defeating Montana Western 62-60. The Yellowjackets are tied atop the GNAC after a 2-0 start in the opening week of conference play. Monica Grimsrud led the team with 15 points and five rebounds in the victory over Montana Western.

Alisha Breen has been a steady force for the Yellowjackets this season, ranked second in the GNAC in scoring (18.5 ppg). In the Division II statistics, she ranks 23rd in free throws made (45) and 29th in minutes played per game (36.25). Breen was named the GNAC Player of the Week on Nov. 16 after scoring 37 points against Academy of Art, the second highest total in the GNAC this season.

CONFERENCE OPENER: After a disappointing start in non-conference play, Western Washington opened the GNAC season with two home victories. The Vikings hosted two of the hottest teams coming into conference play in Alaska and Alaska Anchorage, and sent both home with defeats.

The Vikings faced Alaska in the season opener, defeating the Nanooks 90-59. Kayla Bernsen led the Vikings with a double-double, finishing with game-highs of 19 points and 11 rebounds. Kiana Gandy added 17 points and Taylor Peacocke had 16 points and eight rebounds. Western Washington outscored Alaska in every quarter, ending the fourth quarter with a 29-17 advantage.

Western Washington followed their big win over Alaska by handing Alaska Anchorage its first loss of the season. Bernsen again led the team with 19 points, pulling down seven rebounds. Tia Briggs had a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds and Peacocke added 16 points with a game-high six assists.

After being ranked No. 4 in the West Region Preseason Poll, the Vikings fell out of the rankings after slipping to a 1-3 start. With four straight victories, including a win over No. 2 Alaska Anchorage, the Vikings jumped back up to No. 6 in the region.

DOUBLE TROUBLE: Saint Martin’s forward Megan Wiedeman picked up her third and fourth double-doubles of the season this week, scoring a total of 29 points and grabbing 26 rebounds in two games. The senior was named the GNAC Player of the Week with the efforts, leading her team to a 1-1 record. The Saints fell to No. 5/9 ranked Cal Baptist 78-66, before defeating Quest 65-54.

Wiedeman leads the GNAC in rebounds (98) and rebounds per game (10.9). She is 20th in Division II in rebounds per game, 23rd in total free-throw attempts (61) and 25th in total rebounds.

IN THE RANKINGS: Despite suffering its first loss of the season, Alaska Anchorage remains atop the D2SIDA West Region Poll, receiving 59 of a possible 60 points. The Seawolves moved up one spot to No. 5 in both the D2SIDA National Poll and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association/USA Today National Poll.

Alaska Anchorage played in the lone conference game of the week, hosting travel partner Alaska on Saturday. The Seawolves bumped their conference record up to 2-1 with a 78-56 victory over the Nanooks. This season, the Seawolves lead the nation in multiple statistics including assists (299), rebounds (621), scoring margin (33.4), steal (194) and three-point field goals made (128).

NEW YEAR’S EVE FESTIVITIES: The conference season resumes on New Year’s Eve, with 10 of 11 teams back in action. Games include Seattle Pacific at Central Washington, Western Washington at Concordia, Simon Fraser at Western Oregon, Montana State Billings at Alaska Anchorage and Saint Martin’s at Northwest Nazarene. Conference play will continue through the rest of the season, leading up to the GNAC Championships beginning Mar. 3 in Lacey, Wash.

PRESEASON POLLS: Alaska Anchorage, the preseason favorites to win the GNAC for a second straight season, is living up to the expectations with a 13-1 start.

After being picked to place second in the coaches poll, Western Washington rebounded from a 1-3 start to win four straight games, now sitting at 5-3 and on top of the GNAC. The Vikings played in two competitive tournaments in California to start the season, facing top teams from the PacWest and California Collegiate Athletic Conference. The Vikings picked up two victories at the Oahu Thanksgiving Classic, defeating Chaminade 61-53 on Thanksgiving Day and Hawaii Pacific 64-62 on Friday. The Vikings then defeated both Alaska and Alaska Anchorage to start the GNAC season.

Seattle Pacific was picked third in the preseason poll and has started the year similarly to the Vikings, joining them in California. After an excellent showing in week one with victories over Humboldt State and Fresno Pacific, the Falcons fell twice to UC San Diego and Azusa Pacific. Seattle Pacific then responded with two wins at home to open conference play, defeating Western Oregon and Concordia.

GNAC BASKETBALL GAMES TO AIR ON ROOT SPORTS, AMERICAN SPORTS NETWORK: Great Northwest Athletic Conference men’s and women’s basketball returns to ROOT SPORTS during the 2015-16 season, with a five-game telecast schedule set to open up Jan. 9 in a contest featuring defending regular season men’s conference champion Western Oregon playing host to Saint Martin’s. The women’s schedule opens on Wed., Jan. 13, with Western Washington at Saint Martin’s.

In addition to the ROOT SPORTS schedule, the championship doubleheader of the GNAC’s postseason tournament on Sat., Mar. 5, will be carried live throughout the country as part of the Division II Basketball National Showcase on the American Sports Network. The men’s game tips off at 5:30 p.m. PST and will be followed by the women’s title game at 7:30 p.m. PST.

In all, the GNAC will be featured either regionally or nationally three times in January, twice in February and twice in March. The 2015-16 campaign marks the seventh consecutive season in which the GNAC will have a presence on ROOT SPORTS, the premier regional sports network in the Pacific Northwest, and the third consecutive year in which the conference has featured a “Game of the Week” series on the network.

“The GNAC is extremely pleased to continue our Game of the Week series on ROOT SPORTS,” said conference commissioner Dave Haglund. “This has been a successful and long-standing association and helps expose our great brand of basketball to fans in our conference footprint and beyond. And we are looking forward to featuring our conference tournament championship games on the DII basketball showcase and reaching an even wider audience for the GNAC.”

GNAC Women’s Basketball Games On ROOT SPORTS

Wed., Jan. 13: Western Washington at Saint Martin’s, 8 p.m. (Pacific)

Thurs., Feb. 11: Western Oregon at Montana State Billings, 6 p.m. (Pacific)

TOP PERFORMANCES: Montana State Billings’ guard Marissa Van Atta came off the bench to score a career high 13 points in the Yellowjackets 62-60 victory over Montana Western. She added four rebounds and was 3 of 3 from behind the arc... Sierra Dean put up a team high 22 points in Concordia’s exhibition loss to Division I Boise State. She shot 9 of 17 from the field and 4 of 8 from long range… Western Oregon freshman center Natalie DeLonge scored 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds off the bench for the Wolves against top-ranked Cal Baptist… Alaska Anchorage guard Jessica Madison had a team high 17 points against Alaska, shooting 6 of 12 from the field while grabbing five rebounds and dishing out three assists.


The following GNAC players have been selected to all-tournament teams during the 2015-16 season:

Yellowjacket GNAC/PacWest Challenge: Alisha Breen, MSUB; Rachel Fradgley, SFU.

Mt. McKinley Bank North Star Invitational: Stephanie Toumson, UAF; Jordan Wilson UAF.


Megan Wiedeman, Saint Martin's

F • 6-0 • Senior • Sammamish, Wash.

Wiedeman finished with two double-doubles as the Saints split their games. She finished with 12 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks in a 78-66 loss to No. 5 Cal Baptist. In Saturday’s 65-54 win over Quest, Wiedeman finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds. For the two games, Wiedeman finished with 29 points and 26 rebounds while shooting 45 percent from the field. Also nominated: Sierra Dean (Concordia), Natalie DeLonge (Western Oregon), Jessica Madison (Alaska Anchorage), Marissa Van Atta (Montana State Billings).