SPU upset frozen in Alaska

There’s always that disappointing feeling when you lose a big game.

When the No. 9 University of Alaska, Anchorage (UAA) Seawolves upset the No. 2 SPU Falcons last March in the championship game of the NCAA Division II West Region, many Falcon players were left in tears.

On Saturday, in their first rematch with the Seawolves since their post-season loss, the Falcons were left with a similar reaction.

"[We] still have a sick feeling, but this one we can fix," Head Coach Julie van Beek said regarding Saturday’s 53-49 loss to the Seawolves.

Unlike last spring, in which the Falcons had been undefeated with a 29-0 record, on Saturday, it was the Seawolves who were the favorites. The Seawolves (18-1, 5-0 Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC)) are ranked No. 2 in the nation and are expected to secure the top spot after former No. 1 Northern Kentucky lost at home to Quincy University on Saturday, 66-57.

Despite the loss, the Falcons are fortunate they get to face the best competition this early in the season.

"To have two of the top teams in the country is a big deal," van Beek said of the GNAC. "It’s like iron sharpening iron."

Over 850 fans packed into the Wells Fargo Complex, home of the Seawolves. It was the second largest attendance in the history of UAA’s women’s basketball. Those fans didn’t have much to cheer about, however, as the Falcons started with an 11-2 run and went into halftime up 36-20.

After holding a 16-point lead early in the second half the Falcons went seven minutes and 33 seconds without a bucket. Anchorage slowly crept closer to the Falcon lead and managed to tie the game at 44-44 with just over four minutes remaining.

The Falcons regained their lead for the last time after sophomore guard Maddie Maloney sunk a three-pointer with 1:20 left to make the score 49-48.

After a UAA timeout, Seawolves’ junior guard Tamar Gruwell responded with her own three-pointer for a 51-49 lead.

The Falcons had a chance to tie, but Maloney missed a mid-range jumper and junior guard Daesha Henderson missed a put-back attempt, allowing Seawolves’ senior guard Jackie Thiel to grab the rebound with 8.3 seconds left.

Thiel was fouled and made both of her free throws to secure the win.

The Seawolves’ victory set a school record for 16 consecutive wins.

"In many ways we beat ourselves," van Beek said.

Even though the Falcons attacked the basket, they were not getting very many calls, van Beek said. The Seawolves dominated in free throw attempts, going 10-21, while the Falcons’ only went 4-6.

One of the other major keys was rebounding, van Beek said. The Seawolves out-boarded the Falcons 26-13 in the second half. Former GNAC player of the year senior center Rebecca Kielpinski grabbed eight of her 11 rebounds in the second half.

"Rebecca is very, very consistent," van Beek said. "I think we did a really good job playing defense on Rebecca. We were able to make her uncomfortable at the block."

Though Kielpinski had 11 rebounds, the Falcons held her to a quiet seven points on the night. She also had two blocks.

Falcons’ senior center Kelsey Hill, former All-GNAC first team player, posted similar numbers, collecting 10 rebounds, 10 points and three blocks. Senior forward Kelsey Burns led all scorers with 16 points.

Before Saturday’s loss, the Falcons had their own come-back victory over University of Alaska, Fairbanks (5-10, 0-6 GNAC) on Thursday, defeating the Nanooks 55-50.

After trailing in the first half by as many as nine points, the Falcons, led by Maloney and Henderson, helped fuel a 12-2 run in the second half to regain control of the game. Maloney finished with 12 points while Henderson tallied 11.

Even after the split in Alaska, the No. 14 Falcons are confident they can go far into the post-season this year.

"I definitely think we can be the best team in the region," van Beek said. "We’re in a good position."

The Falcons (12-3, 5-1 GNAC) return to action next Thursday in Bellingham against Western Washington. On Saturday, SPU has its Homecoming doubleheader. The women play Montana State University, Billings at 1:30 p.m. followed by the men at 3:30 p.m. who face Central Washington University.

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Title: SPU upset frozen in Alaska | Author: Zach Wilson | Section: Sports | Published Date: 2009-01-28 | Internal ID: 5923