Perfect Record Lands UAA Team Of The Week Honors
Head coach Ryan McCarthy wins his third consecutive GNAC regular season title.
Head coach Ryan McCarthy wins his third consecutive GNAC regular season title.

Monday, February 27, 2017

PORTLAND, Ore. – With two wins over nationally-ranked teams in the final week of the regular season, Alaska Anchorage completed the conference season with a perfect 20-0 record to earn this week’s Red Lion/GNAC Team of the Week recognition.

It is the fifth time in GNAC history that a team finished conference-play with an undefeated record and the first time since the GNAC switched to a 20-game format in 2015. It is the Seawolves’ third consecutive GNAC regular season title and first undefeated finish to GNAC play in program history.

The No. 2-ranked Seawolves needed to beat No. 16 Western Washington to clinch the GNAC regular season title and did just that in a dramatic double-overtime victory, 75-72. It was the 22nd consecutive win this season for UAA, tying the all-time program record.

The Seawolves led by as much as 13 points in the fourth quarter thanks in large part to its defense, which entered the game averaging a Division II-best 51.3 points per game. The nation’s leading scorer, Western Washington’s Taylor Peacocke, had a fourth-quarter outburst of 16 points to erase the UAA lead and send the battle between nationally-ranked teams into overtime.

The Vikings led by four with 21 seconds left in the first overtime, when Alaska Anchorage’s leading 3-point shooter, Tara Thompson, broke a 0-for-6 spell from beyond the arc to cash in her first trey of the game. Western Washington made one free throw on the other end, giving reigning USBWA National Player of the Week Autummn Williams a chance to tie the game with a lay-up with two seconds left, sending the game into a second overtime.

Williams scored another five points in the second overtime, answering a Peacocke 3-pointer with a long jumper followed by a 3-pointer of her own in the final minute. With 11-seconds left, in her GNAC career record-breaking 72nd start in conference-play, Kiki Robertson knocked down a pair of game-winning free throws to secure the 75-72 double overtime victory for the conference title.

“This was an incredible game between two great teams,” UAA head coach Ryan McCarthy said. “Both teams showed a lot of poise throughout, but Autummn really came through in the overtimes and refused to let us lose.”

Two days later, the Seawolves went north of the border to Burnaby, B.C., to face another nationally-ranked team in Simon Fraser. Alaska Anchorage came away with its program-record breaking 23rd consecutive win, 77-72, to wrap up the regular season undefeated against all Division II opponents.

The Seawolves needed another comeback against the Clan, erasing a 10-point deficit after Simon Fraser’s Ellen Kett nailed a triple with three minutes left in the third quarter. Alaska Anchorage tightened its defense after that, holding the Clan scoreless for the next seven minutes, while going on an 11-0 run to take a 60-59 lead. Robertson hit four free throws and a jumper in the final two minutes, while Williams and Thompson each made a 3-pointer down the stretch to secure the victory.

“We made a run at the end of the third quarter and going into the fourth. That’s when we started playing good basketball,” McCarthy said. “It’s really hard to go undefeated and its really hard to bring that level of competitiveness and intensity every night.”

During the Seawolves’ defensive stretch, Zhara Laster got a steal, which broke the GNAC single season team steals record in conference play. Alaska Anchorage finished the GNAC season with a conference-record 297 steals. The Seawolves also reset the record for team field goals in a conference season with 592 after breaking the record last year with 576.

Alaska Anchorage opened and closed the conference season with wins over Western Washington and Simon Fraser and is the only team to have beaten both nationally-ranked programs this year. Williams finished the week with 49 points, including 31 points in 45 minutes of play against Western Washington. The Seawolves are the No. 1 seed for the GNAC Championships, which will begin on Friday for UAA with the winner of Seattle Pacific and Northwest Nazarene at 2:15 p.m. (Pacific). The Seawolves are also looking to secure the right to host the NCAA West Regional tournament, which belongs to the region’s No. 1 seed.