Yellowjackets, Seawolves Set For 1st Place Showdown
Montana State Billings enters the week on a season long seven-game winning streak while the Seawolves boast a 10-game streak.
Montana State Billings enters the week on a season long seven-game winning streak while the Seawolves boast a 10-game streak.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

SEAWOLVES, YELLOWJACKETS BATTLE FOR FIRST: With matching 9-1 conference records, Alaska Anchorage and Montana State Billings are set to square off Saturday night in Billings for what could be for sole possession of first place in the GNAC.

The Yellowjackets are coming off their two biggest wins of the season, defeating Western Washington 53-47 on Thursday and Simon Fraser 67-62 on Saturday. The wins earned MSUB the Red Lion Team of the Week award, as they improved their overall record to 13-5.

Montana State Billings was picked to finish seventh place in the preseason coaches poll, but have rolled off seven straight wins to move into first place at the season’s halfway point.

Junior forward Alisha Breen has been major factor in the team’s success, ranking second in the GNAC with 17.4 points per game. Breen’s line this week included two 20-plus-point performances, along with clutch free throws in crucial situations. Her teammate, Janiel Olson, has returned as a dominant defensive force after redshirting last season. Olson was named the GNAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2013-14. This season, she is second in the GNAC with 8.6 rebounds per game. The rest of the region has taken notice in the strong play of the Yellowjackets, as they were ranked in the West Region Poll for the first time this season, entering at No. 9.

On the other side, Alaska Anchorage has met expectations with a 22-1 overall record and 9-1 in GNAC play. The Seawolves were picked to finish first in the preseason coaches poll. They are also ranked among the nation’s best, coming in at No. 2 in the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association/USA Today National Poll, while receiving 14 of 24 first place votes, and No. 4 in the D2SIDA Media Poll.

After having their 12-game winning streak to the start the season snapped, the Seawolves have since rolled off 10 more wins. They defeated Seattle Pacific 82-47 on Thursday and Saint Martin’s 78-52 on Saturday at home. Alaska Anchorage has also had the best home court advantage all season, boasting a perfect 13-0 record in the Alaska Airlines Center.

With one of the nation’s top records, the Seawolves are also among the nation’s best statistically. Alaska Anchorage leads Division II in assists (492), assists per game (21.4), rebounds (996), steals (343), scoring margin (30.8) and turnovers forced per game (25.96).

The Yellowjackets and Seawolves meet up for the second time this season, the first coming on New Year’s Eve in Anchorage, when UAA won 70-50 by holding the Yellowjackets to 33.3 percent shooting. Alaska Anchorage tips off the week Tuesday night against Alaska in Fairbanks, while Montana State Billings will host the Nanooks on Thursday.

BREAKING THE STREAK: Alaska snapped a 27-game losing streak against Seattle Pacific on Saturday night in Fairbanks, defeating the Falcons 58-56. The Nanooks trailed by two points late in the game, but with five seconds remaining, Jaylee Mays completed an old-fashioned three-point play to put Alaska on top by one. Mays finished with 14 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals. Jordan Wilson had her 18th straight game scoring in double figures, leading the team with 15 points.

The Nanooks also earned a 66-60 victory over Saint Martin’s on Thursday, moving their record to 4-6 in GNAC play, tied with Northwest Nazarene for sixth place. They are also 9-11 overall.

UP AND DOWN THE GNAC BLOCK: Last week, Saint Martin’s and Central Washington put together two of the top blocking performance this season in the GNAC. The Saints had a GNAC season high of 12 blocks on Thursday against Alaska, while the Wildcats had the third highest total of 10 blocks at Concordia on Saturday.

For the Saints, Megan Wiedeman, Elin Johansson and Shelbie Drey each accounted for three blocks. Wiedeman is currently ranked 20th in Division II in total blocks (38) and 17th in blocks per game (2.24). She also leads the GNAC in double doubles (9), good for 19th in the nation, and leads the conference in rebounds per game (10.1).

For the Wildcats, Jasmine Parker had four blocks while Alexis Berrysmith added three. Parker also led the team with 27 points and 11 rebounds against Concordia. She currently leads the GNAC in blocks (46), blocks per game (2.6) and rebounds per game (8.2). Parker ranks 10th in Division II in total blocks and 11th in blocks per game. Western Washington’s Kayla Bernsen also ranks 16th in the nation in blocks (41) and blocks per game (2.28).

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. Western Oregon and Saint Martin’s men’s basketball played the first ROOT SPORTS televised game on Sat., Jan. 9. The first women’s game is this week on Wed., Jan. 13, featuring 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)

For satellite subscribers, ROOT SPORTS can be found on DirecTV channel 687 and DISH Network channel 426.

TOP PERFORMANCES: Rachel Fradgley led Simon Fraser with 21 points, four rebounds and three assists in a loss to Western Washington on Tuesday… Taylor Peacocke put up 24 points on 9 of 11 shooting against Simon Fraser… In the same game, her teammate Kayla Bernsen had a double-double with 13 rebounds and 11 points… Northwest Nazarene’s Ellie Logan put up 22 points and grabbed seven boards in the team’s loss to Concordia… Alaska Anchorage’s Megan Mullings scored a game high 20 points with nine rebounds, three assists and three steals against Seattle Pacific… Alysha Devine followed up Mullings’ performance with 19 points and nine rebounds for the Seawolves against Saint Martin’s… Concordia’s Briannah Smith scored 13 points with seven rebounds and five assists in the team’s win over NNU.


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.

Sodexo Tip-Off Classic: Hannah Rodrigues, SPU; McKenna Daly, Concordia.

Seawolf Hoops Classic: Christina Davis (MVP), UAA; Megan Mullings, UAA.

South Point Holiday Hoops Classic: Monica Grimsrud, MSUB; Taylor Peacocke, WWU; Aleisha Hathaway, WWU.


Alisha Breen (Montana State Billings, F, 5-10, Jr., Choteau, Mont. - Choteau): Breen delivered two consistent performances for the Yellowjackets, averaging 21.5 points per game in two wins. Breen scored a game-high 21 points on 8 of 18 from the field on Thursday, leading MSUB past Western Washington 53-47. In Saturday’s 67-62 win over Simon Fraser, Breen scored 22 points to go along with five rebounds and an 8 of 8 performance from the free throw line. Breen has led Montana State Billings to an impressive 9-1 GNAC record, tying them for first in the league standings with No. 1 ranked Alaska Anchorage. Also Nominated: Tia Briggs (Western Washington), Alysha Devine (Alaska Anchorage), Ellie Logan (Northwest Nazarene), Jasmine Parker (Central Washington), Kaillee Skjold (Alaska), Megan Wiedeman (Saint Martin’s).