March 3, 2012
LACEY, Wash. -
Western Washington University center Britt Harris (Jr., Marysville/Marysville-Pilchuck) had game-highs of 21 points and 12 rebounds, but it wasn't enough as the Vikings fell to University of Alaska Anchorage, 67-52, in the championship game of the second annual Great Northwest Athletic Conference Women's Basketball Tournament on Saturday at Marcus Pavilion on the Saint Martin's University campus.
The Vikings, the No.2 seed in the tournament, had a six-game winning streak snapped in falling to 21-7, with three of the losses against UAA.
The Seawolves, the No.1 seed in the tournament and the No.8-ranked team in NCAA Division II, improved to 27-4. Forward Haley Holmstead led UAA, which defeated the Vikings in the GNAC title contest for the second straight year, with 19 points on 9-of-14 field-goal shooting.
WWU trailed by just three, 48-45, after a jumper by Katie Colard (R-Fr., McCleary/Elma) with 5:51 to play. But UAA went on an 11-2 run in a little over two minutes to go up 59-47 with 3:17 remaining and was never seriously threatened after that.
Despite the setback, WWU is likely headed to their third straight and 13th appearance in the last 14 years at the NCAA Division II National Tournament. The Vikings were listed fourth in the latest West Region rankings and the top eight receive post-season berths. The 64-team playoff field will be announced Sunday at 7 p.m. Pacific Time. UAA, No.2 in the region this week, earned an automatic berth with the GNAC title.
UAA shot 52.3 percent (23-of-44) from the field to just 27.7 percent (18-of-65) for the Vikings, who had 17 offensive rebounds.
"When I look at the stat sheet, it's surprising we won," said UAA coach Tim Moser. "You don't win very often when your opponent takes 21 more shots and you turn the ball over 21 times, but we'll take it. Western Washington had a lot to do with getting us out of our game for large stretches, and they'll be a formidable opponent for whoever they face in the (NCAA) first round next week."
The Vikings, who lost to the Seawolves by 20 and 22 points in the regular season, never trailed by more than six points until the final five minutes, and were down by only three, 29-26, at halftime.
"It's disappointing that we didn't come out on top and I think we shot the ball very poorly which hurt us, but we battled and didn't back down," said WWU coach Carmen Dolfo. "We had a stretch there where we played poor defense but other than that we played really well."
Harris was 9-of-15 from the field, but the rest of the Vikings were just a combined 9-of-50.
"I was just really proud of (Britt), she wanted the ball offensively, she boarded hard and she had a great tournament," said Dolfo. "We need to put this behind us and learn from this game. We get to keep playing and that's the thing we need to focus on."
In the first half there were three ties and 12 lead changes, UAA scoring the last four points of the period, all by Holmstead, for a 29-26 advantage into the break.