Trio Of GNAC Teams Begin West Region Battle
The first game begins at noon (Alaska) between No. 3 Western Washington and No. 6 Cal State East Bay.
The first game begins at noon (Alaska) between No. 3 Western Washington and No. 6 Cal State East Bay.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – The NCAA Division II Women’s Basketball Championships begin on Friday with eight of the West Region’s top teams battling for a spot in the Elite Eight, including three teams from the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, Alaska Anchorage, Simon Fraser, and Western Washington.


Friday, Mar. 10 - Quarterfinals
Noon: #6 Cal State East Bay (22-8) vs # 3 Western Washington (25-5)
2:30 pm: #7 Point Loma (24-5) vs #2 California Baptist (31-2)
5:00 pm: #5 Simon Fraser (24-7) vs #4 UC San Diego (23-6)
7:30 pm: #8 Hawaii Pacific (21-6) vs #1 Alaska Anchorage (29-1)
Saturday, Mar. 11 - Semifinals
5:00 pm: CSUEB/WWU winner vs PLNU/CBU winner
7:30 pm: SFU/UCSD winner vs HPU/UAA winner
Monday, Mar. 13 - Championship
7:00 pm: Semifinal winners
(winner advances to NCAA Elite Eight, Mar. 21-24 in Columbus, Ohio)


Alaska Anchorage – The host and No. 1 seed is undefeated in the 2016-17 season against all NCAA Division II teams. Ashland, which is the No. 1 seed in the East Region, is the only other team with this distinction. The Seawolves open against Hawaii Pacific, who they defeated last year 62-51 in their annual trip to the Hawaiian Islands. Alaska Anchorage went on the reach the national championship game last year, losing to Lubbock Christian. Since then, the Seawolves have won 29 straight games against Division II teams, including four wins against other teams in the West Region bracket. This is UAA’s fourth consecutive appearance in the West Regional. GNAC Newcomer of the Year Autummn Williams leads the team in scoring with 21.6 points per game and GNAC Defender of the Year Kiki Robertson is set to break the GNAC record for career starts with her 127th.

California Baptist – The PacWest regular season and tournament champions are riding a 28-game winning streak into the tournament, which includes 22 wins against conference opponents. The Lancers will open against Point Loma, who they have already beaten three times this year, including in the CCAA championship game. In fact, this will be the Lancers third meeting with the Sea Lions in their last four games. California Baptist reached the West Regional semifinals last year and was the national runner-up in the previous season, beating Point Loma in the second round that year. This is the Lancers third consecutive trip to the postseason since joining Division II in 2013. This season, the Lancers are 6-1 against the other seven teams in the tournament and also defeated the South Central’s No. 4 seed West Texas A&M. The Lancers are led by PacWest Player of the Year Cassidy Mihalko, who averages 19.9 points per game.

Western Washington – The Vikings have won 19 consecutive games when not playing against Alaska Anchorage and they landed on the opposite side of the bracket as the top seed. Western Washington will open against Cal State East Bay, which was the CCAA tournament champion. The Vikings won both regular season games against CCAA schools, beating Humboldt State and UC San Diego. The Vikings are in the tournament for the first time since 2014 when they lost in the first round to Simon Fraser. The Vikings have a 14-15 record in program history in the NCAA tournament, including a run to the Final Four in 2013. This year, WWU is 3-3 against other teams in the tournament with all three losses coming to Alaska Anchorage. The Vikings boast the nation’s leading scorer in GNAC Player of the Year Taylor Peacocke, who averages 23.4 points per game.

UC San Diego – The 2015-16 regional runner-up brought back a large contingent of last year’s team, but the Tritons have faced some bumps along the way, losing two key players. The Tritons held on to win the final three games of the regular season and clinch the CCAA regular season title and reach the final of the conference tournament. In program history, the Tritons have a 10-9 record in the NCAA Division II tournament that a 2007 trip to the Final Four. In the previous five years, UCSD has twice reached the regional final, losing to Alaska Anchorage both times. Guard Beth Mounier averages a team-best 12.9 points per game.

Simon Fraser – The Clan started the year as one of the hottest teams in the West Region with a 20-3 record after a 99-90 win against Northwest Nazarene. Simon Fraser has had mixed results since then, going 4-4 to make the postseason. The Clan will play against UC San Diego, which lost each of its last two meetings against GNAC teams. Against common opponents, the Clan has a 6-3 record compared to the Tritons’ 3-3 mark. The last time Simon Fraser reached the NCAA tournament was 2014 when the Clan reached the second round with a win against Western Washington before falling to Montana State Billings. This season, SFU is 0-5 against the other seven teams in the tournament with those five losses all coming against the top three seeds. According to the NCAA formula, the Clan had the toughest schedule of any of the eight teams in the regional tournament. The Clan has the Division II assists leader in Ellen Kett, who has recorded a GNAC record-smashing 241 assists.

Cal State East Bay – After struggling in non-conference play, the Pioneers found their rhythm against familiar faces in the CCAA, finishing second place in the regular season standings before making a run for the tournament title to earn the No. 6 seed in the tournament. Cal State East Bay will play Western Washington in the first round. Against GNAC teams this year, CSUEB is 1-1 with a win against Saint Martin’s before falling to Western Oregon. After 28 years of missing out on the tournament, the Pioneers are back in for a second year in a row. Against teams in the bracket, Cal State East Bay is 2-2 with both wins coming against UC San Diego. CCAA Player of the Year Shomari Harris averages a conference best 16.8 rebounds per game, while Morgan Greene ranks third in the region in rebounds with 10.2 per game.

Point Loma – The PacWest runner-up reached the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years and the Sea Lions will be looking to pull off another shocker like the last time they were in Anchorage, Alaska. In 2015, Point Loma knocked off the top-seeded Seawolves, sending shockwaves around the NCAA Division II women’s basketball world. This year, the Sea Lions will face No. 2 California Baptist for the fourth time this season. Point Loma nearly defeated the PacWest champions once already this year before falling in overtime. Against teams in the tournament, the Sea Lions are 2-3 with both wins coming against Hawaii Pacific and all three losses against California Baptist. The Sea Lions’ Roya Rustamzada has recorded 14 double-doubles this year, which ranks 18th in Division II and is the most of any player in the tournament.

Hawaii Pacific – The No. 8 seed enters the tournament as the wildcard, having played just four games against other teams in the conference, losing all four to California Baptist and Point Loma. The Sharks, however, took care of business against all other PacWest teams going 17-0 in the rest of the conference schedule. The Sharks will play Alaska Anchorage in the first round. Hawaii Pacific has not lost this year against GNAC teams, beating both Central Washington and Northwest Nazarene. This is the Sharks second appearance in the tournament in the last three years. Gabriella Fotu is a big reason why the Sharks rank eighth in the West Region in scoring difference with her team-best 27 blocks this year.