UAA Athletics

UAA women’s basketball beats nationally ranked Montana State Billings in overtime

In many ways, the University of Alaska Anchorage women’s basketball team’s regular season finale at the Alaska Airlines Center on Saturday night was a microcosm of its entire 2023-24 season.

During the young Seawolves’ 84-72 overtime win over Montana State Billings, they came out of the gate swinging and ultimately stepped up as a collective when it mattered most to beat a formidable opponent.

“We’re really talented, and when this group locks in, they can do some special things,” UAA head coach Ryan McCarthy said. “Our biggest thing has been consistency this year and that’s part of the building process.”

The Yellowjackets came into the game ranked second in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference and ninth nationally in NCAA Division II. UAA’s triumph marked its third win of the season over a nationally ranked opponent. The first two occurred as part of a season sweep of Western Washington, which will be the top seed in the GNAC tournament this coming week.

“I don’t know what hits us, but when we’re going against someone big, we just hit the gas and keep going,” UAA junior center/forward Tori Hollingshead said. “It’s a great win and we’re excited.”

Throughout the season, the Seawolves have proven time and again they can challenge almost any opponent at their level of competition, and Saturday was no different.

After the two teams were tied 6-6 early in the first couple of minutes, UAA went on a 9-0 run and looked on its way to a runaway victory after closing the opening period on a 15-3 run and establishing a 21-9 lead heading into the second.


Montana State Billings wouldn’t go away, though, and kept chipping away at UAA’s lead until the Yellowjackets no longer trailed by double-digits, bringing the score to 52-46 at the end of the third period.

“Billings is a very good team and ranked No. 9 in the nation for a reason,” McCarthy said. “They just have been consistent all year like that. I’ve watched a lot of game film of them and watched them dig themselves out of a lot of holes and come back and win.”

The Yellowjackets made it a three-point game within the first minute of the fourth quarter, knotted it up for the first time at 62-62 and, in the waning seconds of regulation, forced overtime with a 3-pointer to make it 67-67 with 1.4 seconds left on the clock.

“I’m just really proud of the ladies because that could have gone one of two ways, because that gave Billings the momentum headed into overtime — but we hit two big shots and got two big stops,” McCarthy said.

Even though lone senior Vishe’ Rabb had to spend the extra period on the bench after fouling out late in the fourth quarter, she had faith in her teammates to get the job done.

“I have a lot of trust in my teammates and I think that it’s reciprocated that they have trust in me,” she said. “When I got in foul trouble, I was just making sure that we stayed steady.”

In overtime, it was mainly the Hollingshead and Senya Rabouin show as the two juniors combined for 13 of UAA’s 17 points.

“She was big-time,” McCarthy of Rabouin.

Hollingshead had quite literally the tallest task on the team, having to go up against one of the best post players in the country in Montana State Billings’ 6-foot-2 forward Kola Bad Bear. McCarthy and the coaching staff challenged her in practice during the week and she responded by outrebounding and outscoring one of the Yellowjackets’ best weapons with game-highs in points (22) and boards (six).

“She’s a good player, but we worked on it in practice all this week about how to go against her,” Hollingshead said. “I knew it was a big game for us (post players), and it was a unit with me and Kate (Robertson). We didn’t want them to have post presence and I think we did that pretty well.”

While the Seawolves will head into the GNAC tournament as the No. 3 seed, they are clearly the most dangerous team of the bunch with a good shot at winning it all, given that they’ve already beaten the top two seeds and every other team in the conference at least once.

“We’re capable of beating anybody,” McCarthy said. “We took down the top two teams (in the GNAC) and two of the best teams in the country. March is a special time. We’re that team that is playing our best basketball at this point in time.”

UAA will face off with No. 6 seed Seattle Pacific at 11 a.m. Alaska time on Thursday in the GNAC Tournament quarterfinals at Nicholson Pavilion in Ellensburg, Washington. The winner will advance to face No. 2 seed Western Washington on Friday in the semifinals.

Josh Reed

Josh Reed is a sports reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. He's a graduate of West High School and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.