Wildcats Claim 2nd GNAC Crown

Sunday, March 10, 2024
by Evan O'Kelly, Assistant Commissioner For Communications

ELLENSBURG, Wash. – An inspired Central Washington men’s basketball team captured the 2024 GNAC Men’s Basketball Championships crown in front of a fully-packed crowd at Nicholson Pavilion on Saturday night, with a 78-69 triumph over No. 6 seed Alaska Anchorage.

GNAC Championships MVP Samaad Hector had 22 points and a season-high 14 rebounds to spur his team to its second-ever GNAC trophy, and senior Camron McNeil chipped in 14 points and four boards off the bench. CWU shot 47.3% (26-for-55, and overcame 16 turnovers to secure the victory. CWU finished the 2023-24 season with a remarkable 16-1 record on its home floor, marking the best home record since the 2017-18 Western Oregon team went 17-1 in games played in Monmouth, Ore.

The Wildcats earned the conference’s automatic berth into next week’s NCAA West Region Championships, with the field set to be announced on Sunday evening at 7:30 p.m. Pacific time. CWU improved to 21-9 with the win, while the Seawolves ended their campaign with a record of 22-10.

McNeil drained back-to-back threes midway through the first half, giving the Wildcats their first separation of the night up 15-9 at the 11:55 mark. Later in the first, Anjaylo Lloyd connected on deep threes on consecutive possessions as CWU began to pull away at 31-17.

UAA’s Dillon Barrientos drained a three after an offensive rebound at the 12:23 mark in the second half, pulling the score even at 46-46. It was the first tie since the game was knotted at 9-9 early in the first half, as the Wildcats had led for the entirety of the game up to that point.

CWU responded with a 9-3 run however, and its lead never wavered the rest of the game. UAA’s Tyson Gilbert led his team with 24 points, while Sloan Lentfer added 14 points and Sawyer Storms chipped in 10.

The teams split their regular-season meetings, with UAA winning 75-61 in Anchorage on Jan. 11 and the Wildcats returning the favor with a 75-66 triumph at home on Feb. 10.