UAA women's basketball team drops first game of GNAC tourney

Doyle Woody

The UAA women's basketball team is down, but not necessarily done.

Wednesday's 58-48 loss to Saint Martin's snuffed the Seawolves' ambitions in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference tournament in Lacey, Wash., but it did not necessarily end their season.

They still could have more tournament time ahead.

UAA earlier Wednesday rose to No. 5 in the NCAA Division II West Region rankings, which still gives it a shot at earning an at-large bid to that postseason party. The Seawolves will find out their fate Sunday when the regional field is set -- the eight bids go to three conference champions and the next five highest-ranked teams.

So while Wednesday's events delivered disappointment to the Seawolves, they also were given reason to harbor hope.

"We've got to hope for this conference tournament and the (California Collegiate Athletic Association) tournament to go without too many upsets,'' UAA coach Ryan McCarthy said by cellphone. "We've had some good news and some bad news today, I guess.

"I still felt we needed this win to cement a (NCAA) spot. I do think we're a tournament team, one of the top eight teams in the region.''

The Seawolves received more good news later in Wednesday's GNAC tournament when Simon Fraser beat fifth-seeded Seattle Pacific, 87-79. Simon Fraser is ranked No. 3 in the region and Seattle Pacific is one spot behind UAA at No. 6, so the Falcons' loss serves the Seawolves well. That's why, after Seattle Pacific's loss McCarthy scheduled a UAA practice Friday.

At Marcus Pavilion, on the Wolves home court Wednesday, the third-seeded Seawolves (19-8) ran into a familiar obstacle in the sixth-seeded Wolves (18-10), who have won all three meetings between the teams this season.

Just like in the previous two games between the teams, the Wolves on Wednesday harassed the Seawolves into poor shooting. And even when the Seawolves earned open looks at the basket, they simply could not get shots to fall.

UAA shot a season-low 26.1 percent from the field Wednesday. In three meetings, St. Martin's has limited UAA to a combined 29.5 percent shooting. Overall, the Seawolves entered Wednesday shooting 40.6 percent from the field.

UAA raced to a 16-9 lead in the opening eight-plus minutes before it endured a miserable stretch of 8:02 in which it did not score a point, missed 13 straight shots and mixed in two turnovers.

Still, the Seawolves trailed 33-23 at intermission, kept its deficit within single digits throughout the second half -- that was despite another scoreless stretch that lasted 5:34 -- and cut the Wolves' lead to 50-48 with 2:38 remaining.

But Angela Gelhar buried consecutive 3-pointers with less than two minutes to play to give St. Martin's a cushion.

UAA's Kylie Burns, the team's lone senior, helped fuel the second-half comeback with 10 of her team-high 14 points in the final 20 minutes. She also grabbed a team-high nine rebounds.

"I'm really proud of this group and really proud of Kylie,'' McCarthy said. "For a program that was gutted last season to make this kind of progress is special.''

Jenna Buchanan added nine points for UAA and KeKe Wright furnished eight rebounds.

Gelhar led the Wolves with a game-high 21 points and Jordyn Richardson added 10.

A deciding factor in the game came at the free-throw line. St. Martin's made 18 of its 27 attempts, and UAA got to the line 12 times, making six.

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