ANCHORAGE (Feb. 16) – Teancum Stafford scored 18 points, including the go-ahead free throws with 48 seconds remaining, to help Alaska Anchorage to a 71-69 victory over Alaska Fairbanks at the Wells Fargo Sports Complex on Saturday night.
The Seawolves (16-6, 9-5 GNAC) also got 16 points apiece from Kyle Fossman and Abebe Demissie as they beat UAF for the 15th straight time and moved one game ahead of their rivals for third place in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference standings.
The Nanooks (13-9, 8-6) got a game-high 20 points and seven rebounds from guard Ronnie Baker as they lost their 10th straight road game in the series.
UAF almost delivered a big comeback, erasing a 60-47 deficit to take the lead three times in the final three minutes. Nanooks center Sergej Pucar gave the visitors their first lead in over 20 minutes when he sank a three-pointer to make it 64-63 with 2:56 remaining.
After UAA’s Colton Lauwers made one of two free throws, UAF responded with a layup from Andrew Kelly on a feed from Pat Voeut. The Seawolves scrambled to beat the shot clock on their ensuing possession when freshman Christian Leckband rose up for a 23-foot three-pointer that swished through with 90 seconds on the game clock.
Pucar then converted a traditional three-point play as UAF went ahead 69-67 and drew the fifth foul on UAA center Liam Gibcus, who finished with 10 points and five rebounds.
But UAA would retake the lead on its next trip when Stafford was fouled by Kelly on a three-point attempt. The sophomore from Auburn, Wash., calmly sank all three charities and grabbed the defensive rebound after a miss by Baker.
After Seawolf freshman Jalen Little made one of two free throws with 12.9 seconds left, the Nanooks raced up court and again found Baker, whose layup attempt was heavily contested and fell into the hands of Leckband.
Leckband, a 6-7 forward from Nome, would miss his two foul shots, however, and UAF grabbed the rebound and called timeout with 3 seconds on the clock. The Nanooks got it to midcourt before Fossman tipped Voeut’s pass, and the ball landed in Demissie’s hands as the buzzer sounded.
Leckband finished with seven points (2-3 3FGs) and tied Stafford for team-high honors with six rebounds.
With the win, UAA clinches its third straight berth in the GNAC Tournament. The Seawolves can now finish no worse than sixth in the conference standings, with the top six earning trips to Lacey, Wash., for the Mar. 7-9 event.
NOTES: Fossman went 3 of 6 from three-point range to extend his streak to 30 straight games with at least one trey … Gibcus – the Seawolves’ only 4th-year senior – moved into a tie for ninth place on UAA’s career games played list with his 107th appearance, while tying former teammate and Australian Steve White (2008-12) for 4th place on the all-time victories list with 77 … UAF has not beaten UAA since Jan. 28, 2006, with the 15-game streak now becoming the longest ever in the series … the Nanooks’ last win over UAA in Anchorage was Feb. 23, 2003 … the Seawolves now lead the all-time series 72-21, including 41-5 in Anchorage.