Three GNAC Teams Advance To NCAA West Regional
Alaska Anchorage is the No. 1 seed, Western Washington is No. 3 and Simon Fraser is No. 5.
Alaska Anchorage is the No. 1 seed, Western Washington is No. 3 and Simon Fraser is No. 5.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

PORTLAND, Ore. – For the second time in three years, Alaska Anchorage women’s basketball will host the NCAA Division II West Regional as the No. 1 seed at the Alaska Airlines Center, beginning on Friday, March 10 as announced on the NCAA Selection Show. A total of three GNAC teams were selected to advance to the tournament with Western Washington taking the No. 3 seed and Simon Fraser being named the No. 5 seed.

The three selections from the conference are the most since 2014, which was the last time either Simon Fraser or Western Washington reached the tournament. That year, the two GNAC teams squared off in the regional final with Western Washington winning 75-58 before advancing to the national semifinals. For Alaska Anchorage, it is the fourth consecutive NCAA playoff appearance. This is the first time since 2005 that three of the top five seeds are from the GNAC.

Alaska Anchorage opens against No. 8 seed Hawaii Pacific on Friday at 7:30 p.m. (Alaska). The Sharks finished in third place in the PacWest Conference and were semifinalists in the conference tournament, falling to Point Loma. Alaska Anchorage made a trip to Hawaii this year, but did not play the Sharks. During last year’s trip to Hawaii, the teams met and the Seawolves won 62-51 thanks to a 14-point effort by Kiki Robertson, who will break the GNAC record for career starts with her 127th in Friday’s contest.

“We were fortunate enough to host two years ago,” said Alaska Anchorage head coach Ryan McCarthy, Saturday night following UAA’s third straight conference tournament title. “We dropped a tough game, but I think this would be a great redemption opportunity for us. More importantly, it’s really big for our city to be able to grow the sport of women’s basketball.”

The Seawolves enter the NCAA Tournament with a program-record 25-game winning streak. They are a perfect 29-0 this season against Division II teams. GNAC Championships MVP Autummn Williams is averaging 21.4 points this season and is two field goals away from the GNAC single-season record. With 104 steals, Robertson is one steals away from another GNAC single-season record. Last week, she became the 16th player in UAA history to record 1,000 career points.

Western Washington opens the NCAA West Regional at noon on Friday against No. 6 seed Cal State East Bay, which won the CCAA tournament after finishing second in the regular season. The Pioneers twice defeated UC San Diego, going on a run of nine consecutive wins, heading into the tournament. Western Washington enters the contest having won 19 of its past 21 games with both losses coming against Alaska Anchorage.

The Vikings have a trio of players averaging double-digit points, including GNAC Player of the Year Taylor Peacocke, who has recorded the first 700-point season in GNAC history. The Vikings have one of the best field-goal shooting teams in the West Region, ranking in the top two in field-goal percentage (46.0), 3-point percentage (37.0) and free-throw percentage (80.5).

Simon Fraser plays the CCAA regular season champion UC San Diego in the first round at 5 p.m. The Tritons lost the CCAA tournament to Cal State East Bay, which earned the No. 7 seed. UC San Diego had a 13-game winning streak during the season, but lost three of its last nine games. The Clan opened the season winning 20 of its first 23 games with the only losses coming to each of the West Region’s eventual top-3 seeds.

The Clan is led by the GNAC’s single season assists record holder Ellen Kett, who was a unanimous First Team All-GNAC selection. She has recorded a Division-II best 241 assists this season, which is 38 more than anyone else. Friday’s match-up is the second meeting ever between UC San Diego and Simon Fraser. The Clan won the first meeting 61-58 on November 11, 2012 at the Disney Tip-Off Classic.

The only quarterfinal contest that won’t feature a GNAC team is between No. 2 California Baptist and No. 7 Point Loma. The winner of that game will play the Western Washington/Cal State East Bay winner in the semifinals. The semifinals are Saturday at 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and the championship game is scheduled for Monday at 7 p.m.