UAA and UAF both lost men’s basketball games Thursday night, but UAF’s loss made UAA a winner.
The Seawolves botched an inbounds play with less than three seconds left to allow Western Oregon to escape with an 85-84 win in Monmouth, Oregon, but their night wasn’t a total loss.
At the same time UAA was losing, so was UAF. Concordia-Portland upset the Nanooks 78-73 in Portland, an outcome that allowed the Seawolves to clinch a spot in next week’s Great Northwest Athletic Conference tournament.
UAA came into the week with its magic number at 1 for clinching a spot in the conference tournament. The Seawolves needed to win one of their two remaining regular-season games or either UAF or Central Washington needed to lose one of their remaining two games. The Nanooks cooperated — as far as the Seawolves are concerned — by losing to Concordia.
The Seawolves (18-12 overall, 11-8 GNAC) are the fifth team to earn a spot in the GNAC tournament. The sixth spot will go to either UAF or Central Washington depending on what happens on the final night of the regular season Saturday. UAF and Central Washington are both 10-9 in league games.
Oggie Pantovic piled up 24 points and nine rebounds and Niko Bevens scored 18 points for UAA in Thursday’s game, a barnburner that delivered 20 lead changes.
UAA led by as many as 13 points in the first half but its lead dwindled to 47-44 at halftime. It was a one-possession game for most of the second half until Western Oregon (18-7, 12-7) opened up an 85-79 lead with 78 seconds to play.
The Seawolves answered with a traditional three-point play by Tyler Hosley to make it 85-82, and a steal by Tobin Karlberg led to a Hosley layup that made it 85-84.
The Seawolves got the ball back when Pantovic drew a charging foul with 20 seconds left. UAA worked for a last-second shot, but Karlberg’s attempt from the lane was blocked out of bounds. The Seawolves maintained possession with 2.5 seconds left but were unable to cleanly inbound the ball, leaving them with no chance for a buzzer-beater.
Only seven players saw action for UAA, and four of them finished in double figures.
Pantovic shot 10 of 14 to finish in double figures for the 18th straight game; Bevens hit 5 of 10 shots from long range and added four rebounds; Hosley scored 15 points on 6 of 10 shooting and had four assists and Karlberg provided 14 points and five assists, with 12 of his points coming on 4-of-7 shooting from 3-point range.
Western Oregon triumphed behind a 17-point, 10-rebound game from John Morrill-Keeler, a 32-27 rebounding edge and a scant five turnovers.
UAA wraps up the regular season Saturday with a road game against Concordia-Portland.