Shabazz Improbably Carries Nanooks Into Men's Title Game
Senior guard Shadeed Shabazz scored 21 of his game-high 33 points in the second half. Photo by Ron Smith.
Senior guard Shadeed Shabazz scored 21 of his game-high 33 points in the second half. Photo by Ron Smith.

Friday, March 4, 2022

LACEY, Wash. – Fans came to Marcus Pavilion expecting a great Alaska shootout. They witnessed a complete Shadeed show.

Senior guard Shadeed Shabazz finished with 33 points Friday, carrying the No. 10 seeded Nanooks to the finals of the GNAC men’s Basketball Championships with a 63-58 semifinals win over No. 3 seed Alaska Anchorage.

Shabazz connected on 13 of 22 from the field and 6 of 9 from the free-throw line to go with six rebounds and four steals. Twenty-one of those points came in the second half despite the senior playing with four fouls for the final 10 minutes of the contest.

Senior guard Koby Huerta finished with 14 points and played all but 44 seconds of the game as the Nanooks had just seven players available. Sophomore forward Abdullahi Mohamed also finished with 14 points, including 8 of 9 from the free-throw line, to go with seven rebounds.

Junior guard Tobin Karlberg led Alaska Anchorage with 28 points, connecting on 9 of 20 from the field and 5 of 10 from three-point range. Senior guard/forward Hunter Sweet finished with 10 points while senior forward Oggie Pantovic was limited to six points and nine rebounds.

The victory sets up an improbable Saturday final that will feature Alaska (11-14) against either No. 5 seed Central Washington or No. 9 seed Western Oregon. Alaska Anchorage drops to 15-9 overall and will have to hope for an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships when the Selection Show takes place on Sunday night.

It was Shabazz who was the prime mover in the Alaska offense early, scoring eight of the Nanooks’ first 10 points as UAF went out to a 10-7 lead at the 13:53 mark. Karlberg snapped a three-minute scoreless streak for both teams with a three-pointer with 10:14 left in the period.

The Nanooks kept the Seawolves at arm’s length until another Karlberg three-pointer started a 13-5 run that closed out the half. It was Karlberg who gave UAA its biggest lead of the stanza, 27-21, with 1:17 to go before Shabazz closed out the half by sinking a baseline jumper just as time expired to bring the Nanooks within 27-23 at the break.

Alaska Anchorage went on a 10-4 run to open the second half, taking a 37-27 lead on senior forward Hunter Sweet’s lay-in four minutes into the period. The game had the potential to change less than a minute later when Pantovic fell to the floor with an apparent knee injury. He was able to return to the game four minutes later.

But the contest became much closer from that point on. The Seawolves continued to hold a 10-point lead with 14:31 left when Mohamed’s lay-in ignited a 13-5 run over the next four minutes. The run ended on a pair of Shabazz free throws that tied it up at 42-42 with 10:44 left to play.

The teams traded leads over the next four minutes before a series of free throws by Shabazz and Mohamed swung the momentum in Alaska’s direction for good. With the game tied 49-49 with seven minutes to go, those free throws started an 8-1 run that saw the Nanooks go ahead 57-50 on a Shabazz fastbreak lay-in with 3:54 left.

The Seawolves gave themselves a chance late, using Karlberg’s three-pointer with 14 seconds left to come within 61-58. But Alaska quickly beat the full-court press, moving the ball back down the floor to allow Mohamed to close the game with a dunk that punctuated the latest chapter in Alaska’s Cinderella story.