The season ended in brutal, heart-breaking fashion Monday night for the UAA women's basketball team in Azusa, California.
Montana State-Billings hit two free throws with three seconds left and its star player blocked a buzzer shot by UAA's Hannah Wandersee to beat the Seawolves 71-70 in the championship game of the West Region Tournament.
UAA ends the season with a 27-5 record. Billlings is 25-11 and headed to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight after its seventh straight win, six of them coming in the postseason.
The Seawolves were in position to win with less than 10 seconds left.
Up by one point and in possession of the ball with 9.3 seconds remaining and the shot clock not in play, all they needed to do was hang onto the ball.
But UAA guard Kian McNair placed her heel on the sideline as she pivoted to pass, giving the ball to the Yellowjackets. After that, Billings made all of the right moves to deny the Seawolves.
With four seconds left, McNair fouled Billings guard Rylee Kane, who calmly hit both free throws to put her team ahead, 71-70.
UAA drew a foul after it threw the ball inbounds but didn't go to the free throw line because Billings hadn't fouled enough to put the Seawolves in the bonus.
And so UAA called a timeout and drew up a last-second shot for Wandersee, a 6-foot-2 junior center from Kodiak.
Wandersee caught the in-bound pass and put up a turnaround jumper, but the shot was blocked by 5-10 Alisha Breen, the Great Northwest Athletic Conference's player of the year.
"They forced us into a pretty critical mistake at the end," UAA coach Ryan McCarthy said at the postgame press conference, "but that's what makes March special, plays like that. It's unfortunate we left it in the officials' hands at the end, to end it on free throws, which is kind of a tough pill to swallow."
Monday's West Region championship game was an all-GNAC affair. UAA defeated Billings twice in the regular season, but the Yellowjackets are starting to look like a team of destiny.
They finished fourth in the GNAC during the regular season, but won the GNAC tournament in Anchorage by winning three games, including a semifinal upset over top-seeded Northwest Nazarene.
That earned them a spot in the West Region tournament as the No. 7 seed in the eight-team field. They knocked off second-seeded Hawaii Pacific and third-seeded UC-San Diego before taking down the Seawolves, the tournament's No. 5 seed.
Breen was one of four scorers in double figures for Billings. She made up for 3-of-13 shooting from the field by sinking 9 of 10 free throws to finish with 16 to go along with six rebounds, two steals, two assists and one very big block. Vanessa Stavish, who hit 5 of 6 shots from behind the arc, provided 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Wandersee led UAA with a game-high 18 points, blocked two shots, grabbed seven rebounds and had two assists. Rodericka Ware dropped in 12 points, Tara Thompson had 11 and Yazmeen Goo supplied nine points and six assists.
UAA had the better shooting percentage, 41.9 to 38.2, but Billings owned a 20-11 edge at the foul line and a 39-32 rebounding advantage.