Seawolves Enter Tournament As Favorites To Repeat
The Seawolves look to repeat as tournament champions after once again capturing the regular season title this year.
The Seawolves look to repeat as tournament champions after once again capturing the regular season title this year.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Alaska Anchorage, the reigning GNAC and regular season champion, enters as the heavy favorites in the GNAC Women’s Basketball Championships, which begin Thursday at Saint Martin’s University’s Marcus Pavilion.      

Five other teams look for an opportunity to dethrone the Seawolves, including No. 2 seed Western Washington. The Vikings were tournament champions in both 2013 and 2014 and are one of just two Division II teams to defeat the Seawolves this season. Alaska Anchorage and Western Washington met in the finals last season, with the Seawolves coming out ahead 71-58.

The women’s tournament officially tips off on Thur., Mar. 3, at 5:15 p.m. Pacific time with the opening game between No. 3 seed Montana State Billings and No. 6 seed Northwest Nazarene.

Led by GNAC Player of the Year Megan Mullings, the Seawolves are poised for a repeat run for the tournament title. Mullings leads the GNAC in shooting percentage (.629) and ranks fourth in scoring (16.6 points per game). She also leads the Seawolves with 6.1 rebounds per game and 50 blocks.

As a team, the Seawolves put together a dominant season with a 31-2 overall record, 18-2 GNAC. They lead the league in both scoring offense and scoring defense, scoring 81 points per game while allowing just 53.6 points per contest. Their scoring margin of 27.5 is second in all of Division II. Alaska Anchorage ranks first in the nation in assists (685), assists per game (20.8), steals (468), steals per game (14.2) and turnovers forced per game (24.45).

First Team All-GNAC selection Jenna Buchanan became one of the top three-point shooters in the nation this year, ranking fifth in three-pointers made (98), 13th in three-pointers attempted (220), 15th in three-point shooting percentage (44.5) and 17th in three-pointers made per game (2.97).

Western Washington, the No. 2 seed, brings with tons of experience to conference tournament. The Vikings won the tournament in 2013 and 2014 and were the runners-up last season.      Western Washington leads the GNAC in shooting percentage (.475), rebounding defense (31.4) and blocked shots (154). With a 16-4 conference record, 20-8 overall, and a win over Alaska Anchorage this season, the Vikings have proven they can beat any other team.

Senior center Kayla Bernsen was named the GNAC Defensive Player of the Year after leading the conference in blocked shots (84). She was also first in offensive rebounds (3.9) and ranked third in field goal percentage (.538). Junior guard Taylor Peacocke was selected to the conference’s first team after finishing second in scoring during the regular season (16.8 ppg). Peacocke scored in double figures in all 27 games she played this season.

Montana State Billings was edged by Western Washington on the final day of the regular season for the No. 2 seed, but still finished strong in third. The Yellowjackets were the surprise team of the year after being picked to tie for seventh in the GNAC Preseason Coaches Poll. With a 15-5 GNAC record, 19-9 overall, the Yellowjackets proved many wrong.

Junior guard Alisha Breen was selected First Team All-GNAC after leading the Yellowjackets with 16.5 points per game, good for fifth in the GNAC. She also pulled down 5.5 rebounds per game and shot well from behind the arc at 38.9 percent. Janiel Olson made a comeback from an ACL injury to lead the Yellowjackets with 8.3 rebounds per game, ranking second in the conference.

Simon Fraser grabbed the No. 4 seed with a 13-7 conference record, 15-10 overall. The Clan ended the season with its biggest win of the year on the road at Alaska Anchorage, defeating the Seawolves 67-66. They enter the tournament with longest active winning streak of three games, showing more about the parity in the conference more than anything else.

Junior guard Ellen Kett is one the biggest reasons for the Clan’s success this season. She was selected to the All-GNAC First Team after ranking second in all of Division II in three-point shooting (.495), third in assists per game (7.3) and fourth in total assists (182). Kett also recorded the GNAC’s only triple-double of the season in the Clan’s victory over Alaska Anchorage. Elisa Homer adds another scoring threat from the outside, leading the GNAC in three-point shooting and ranking third in Division II in three-pointers made per game (3.76).

Central Washington rode the second best defense in the GNAC to a 10-10 conference record, 17-11 overall. The Wildcats allowed just 55.7 points per game and ranked second in the conference in field goal percentage defense (.369), rebounding defense (31.7) and blocked shots per game (4.6). The Wildcats’ season includes wins over four of the five playoff teams including Western Washington, Montana State Billings, Simon Fraser and Northwest Nazarene.

Jasmin Edwards and Jasmine Parker combine for a tough one-two punch on both sides of the ball. Edwards averages 11.7 points per game with 5.4 assists and 1.6 steals. She ranks third in the GNAC with an assist/turnover ratio of 1.5. Parker averages 10.8 points per game, 7.5 rebounds with a .527 shooting percentage. She is also second in blocks at 2.5 per game.

Northwest Nazarene used aggressive defense and a fast-paced offense to reach the conference tournament once again. The Crusaders pressured teams inside, drawing contact and consistent trips to the free-throw line. As a team, they shot 76.9 percent from the charity stripe to lead the GNAC. The Crusaders are also ranked second in scoring offense (71.3) and steals per game (9.6).

Taylor Simmons helped carry the load for the Crusaders, receiving second team honors. She averaged 11.9 points per game, 4.2 assists and was persistent defensively with 3.2 steals per game, good for ninth in Division II. Her teammate, guard Ellie Logan, used her slashing ability inside to get to the free throw line 123 times. She led the GNAC and ranked 14th in the nation with an .886 shooting percentage from the charity stripe.

Alaska Anchorage owns the best overall record against playoff teams at 8-2. Western Washington and Montana State Billings each finished 6-4 versus playoff teams, Simon Fraser at 5-5, Central Washington at 4-6 and Northwest Nazarene finished 1-9. Alaska Anchorage ranked No. 1 in the latest NCAA West Region Poll while Montana State Billings ranked No. 8 and Western Washington No. 9. The winner of the GNAC Championships receives the conference’s automatic bid to the national tournament.

The championship game will be played on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Along with the men’s final, the game will be aired nationally by the American Sports Network as part of its Division II Basketball Showcase. All GNAC Championships games will be video streamed at