At the end of the first half, the game was going as most people probably would have expected.
The Alaska Anchorage Seawolves were leading, but the SFU Clan was hanging around — keeping it close and by no means out of it.
What happened next, however, would have shocked nearly the biggest optimist.
SFU came roaring out of the break, outscoring Alaska Anchorage 25–7 in the third quarter. That proved to be the main difference, as SFU ended up winning 80–70 in front of a shocked home crowd for the Seawolves.
The magnitude of this win cannot be overstated. Alaska Anchorage was the number one seed in the West Region, and the number two ranked team in all of Division II women’s basketball. They had lost only one game before this all season and went the entire Great Northwest Athletic Conference schedule unbeaten, and was considered by many to be a pretty good bet to win the national championship.
Oh, and they made it to the final last year. Not only that, they were playing at home in this one, where they had only loss once all year — but that was against the University of Portland, a Division I program.
In fact, you have to go back to last season to find the last time Alaska Anchorage lost at home to a Division II program. Funnily enough, that was against Simon Fraser in the last conference game of the season. They didn’t have Meg Wilson available to play in that one either.
If we were to use a professional sports analogy to try and summarize this, this was like the Golden State Warriors blowing a 3–1 series lead — all condensed into one single 40-minute game.
At the start of it, the Clan gave up 12 straight points after getting an early lead. It looked like this would be a long night. However, SFU answered with eight points to put them within one.
Although the Clan kept it close in the second, the Seawolves always seemed to have an answer. Every time SFU seemed to get some momentum going, Alaska Anchorage was able to come back and stop it right in its tracks.
At least in the first half.
SFU was able to score seven points before Alaska Anchorage got on the board in the third quarter. The Clan was making nearly every shot — in contrast, Alaska Anchorage couldn’t get one to fall. By the end of it, they had a 12-point lead.
That lead shrunk to six halfway through the fourth before Sophie Swant and Ozi Nwabuko made back-to-back layups to put the lead back to 10. They didn’t look back after that.
Not only did SFU outscore Alaska Anchorage 53–35 in the second half, they were dominant doing so. They looked like a completely different team than the one that lost to Central Washington just over a week earlier.
In that loss, SFU shot just 27.1% from the field, way below their season average. In the two wins since, they’ve shot 39.7% and 45.6% — dramatically better performances.
A lot of that has to do with their three-point shooting. In the loss against Central, they shot a measly 15% from long range. Since then, they’ve shot above 40% both times. For a team that has built its reputation over the past couple of seasons as being great at three-point shooting, it’s a welcome addition back to their arsenal of weapons.
Leading the way with another dominant performance was Sophie Swant. She once again led the Clan in scoring with 18 points, breaking her previous season-high of 17 points set the game earlier. For all the concern following the injury to Meg Wilson, SFU seems to have found perhaps a replacement in the sophomore from North Vancouver.
Ellen Kett had a brilliant all-around game, finishing with 14 points, six assists, and two steals all while playing the entire 40 minutes. Rachel Fradgley nearly had a triple double, recording 10 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists. Freshman Tayler Drynan was a perfect four-for-four from the field, including going three-for-three from behind the arc.
Next Game: SFU will now play in the West Regional Final against the California Baptist Lancers. The Clan will be looking to advance to the Elite Eight for the first time in the program’s NCAA history.
California Baptist is the second ranked team in the west region, and have arguably had just as dominant a season as Alaska Anchorage. Like the Seawolves, they also went undefeated in conference play, and have lost only twice all year. In fact, since losing to UC San Diego on November 12, the Lancers have won 30 straight games.
These two teams actually played each other earlier in the season. In the first game for either side back on November 4, the Lancers came away with an 84–77 victory. Rachel Fradgley led the way for the Clan, scoring 20 points and snagging six boards in just 22 minutes of game time.
It’s another tough task for SFU. But after this game, I’m not ready to count them out until the final buzzer.
Tip-off is at 8:00 p.m on Monday.