Saturday night wasn’t the first senior night for guard David Rowlands, but it will definitely go down as the most memorable. The graduate transfer came to UAA for this season after spending his first four years at Hawaii Pacific. There weren’t any friends, family or even fans in attendance for his first senior night.
The COVID-19 pandemic restricted or caused the cancellation of countless senior nights for college athletes across the country last year for the 2020-21 season. The UAA men’s basketball team didn’t play at all last year, but thanks to the NCAA giving every player an extra year of eligibility, the class of 2021 got a senior night do-over.
“This time my family came out and all these people filled up the arena,” Rowlands said. “It was a very good experience to be able to play in front of a crowd like that and to give them a win felt really good.”
After suffering its first home loss of the season on Thursday, the UAA men’s basketball team rebounded with an 85-76 win over the Saint Martin University Saints in the Seawolves’ final regular-season game of the year on Saturday.
What made the victory even sweeter was that it came on senior night and the Seawolves got significant contributions from their graduating class. Of their four players that reached double digits in scoring, three were seniors with Rowlands leading the team with 20 points.
“I take what the game gives me,” Rowlands said. “I try to facilitate to the other guys, because I’m not one of the leading scorers normally, but they were giving me open looks tonight, so I took them and knocked some of them down.”
His fellow seniors Oggie Pantovic and Hunter Sweet joined him in reaching double figures with 16 and 10 points, respectively. Rowlands was 4-of-7 from behind the arc and a perfect 4-of-4 on his free-throw attempts. Pantovic had an efficient night shooting 5-of-8 from the field and 5-of-6 from the free-throw line.
“The crowd was amazing throughout the whole night,” Pantovic said. “They stuck with us and picked us up when we were down. It was an overall amazing experience and something that I will always remember.”
Despite the loss, Saint Martin’s ended up atop the conference with UAA finishing third.
“They were playing for a championship, and we were playing for seeding,” UAA coach Rusty Osborne said. “Senior night added to it, a lot of parents and relatives were in town so it was a good crowd, an intense game and we were fortunate enough to come out on top this time.”
UAA trailed for the majority of the first half and went into halftime down 39-33 but kept chipping away at Saint Martin’s lead until it took control in the final 10 minutes of the game.
“We had some breakdowns in the first half where we gave away some possessions,” Osborne said. “In the second half we did a much better job of playing every possession in both ends and we picked up the intensity and defensive effort.”
Their ability to find a groove on offense after an uneven first half, consistently get stops on defense and convert turnovers into scoring opportunities paved the way for their comeback.
“With good defense comes great offense,” Pantovic said. “We were able to execute on offense in the second half because of our defense.”
The Seawolves capitalized on the Saints’ inability to hold onto the ball by converting 17 turnovers, nine of which were steals, into 24 points. Juniors Tobin Karlberg and AJ Garrity tied for the team lead in steals with three each and Rowlands notched the second-most with two of his own. Karlberg also finished second on the team in scoring with 19 points.
The Seawolves finish the year with a 10-1 record at home, a 14-8 overall record and take on Seattle Pacific in the conference tournament Thursday in Seattle.
UAF hockey pulls off near-sweep of Arizona State
The UAF hockey team went to overtime twice over its weekend series with Arizona State. While UAF came away victorious in the first, the second finished in a tie.
Friday night’s action featured a clutch performance from sophomore Filip Fornaa Svensson, who scored both the game-tying and game-winning goals.
The Sun Devils jumped out to an early lead by notching a pair of goals in the first period to the Nanooks’ one. After a scoreless second period, Fornaa Svensson got an assist from redshirt freshman Chase Dubois and was able to find the back of the net midway through the third to tie it up.
In a 3-on-3 overtime, UAF made quick work of ASU thanks to the trio of Fornaa Svensson, freshmen Austin Rubtsov and Arvils Bergmanis. Just over a minute into the extra period, the three teamed up to put Fornaa Svensson in position to score the game-winner, and he executed to secure the Nanooks’ first overtime win of the season.
Saturday night’s game was just as tightly contested after UAF found the net first on a goal from sophomore Robert Kalkis in the opening period before ASU knotted it up in the second with one from Colin Theisen. Following a scoreless third period, neither team was able to come out on top of the second consecutive overtime between them.
The Nanooks will wrap up their regular season with another two-game weekend series with a familiar foe in the Long Island University Sharks, who they just played on the road last week.
Three UAA skiers post top-10 finishes
The University of Alaska Anchorage nordic ski team had three Seawolves notch top 10 finishes Friday in the 5- and 10-kilometer classic races at the RMISA/NCAA Regional Championships in Denver, Colorado.
In his first competition since returning from the Winter Olympics, JC Schoonmaker finished fifth in the men’s 10K race in 28 minutes, 21 seconds. Astrid Stave led the Seawolves in the women’s 5K race with a sixth-place time of 15:57. Leon Nikic made it to the podium for the second time this season after finishing in second place with a time of 1:26.30.
Qualifiers for next week’s NCAA Championships that will take place in Soldier Hollow and Park City, Utah, on March 9-12 will be announced this week.