East Anchorage High School graduate Laura Ingham returned home to lead the Nevada Wolfpack to the women's Great Alaska Shootout title, scoring 19 points as Nevada overcame a 16-point deficit to beat Indiana 68-56 in Wednesday's championship game at Anchorage's Sullivan Arena.
Ingham, a 5-foot-4 senior point guard, added six assists, two steals and four rebounds in the title game for the Wolfpack, earning tournament Most Outstanding Player honors.
In the third-place game, tournament host University of Alaska Anchorage, the only NCAA Division II team in the four-team field, upset Eastern Kentucky 77-74 to claim third place. It was UAA's first victory over an NCAA Division I team since 1995. Juneau's Tanya Nizich, a junior guard for UAA, scored 12 points for the Seawolves.
In Tuesday's opener, Ingham only scored four points in Nevada's 67-49 victory over UAA, but she grabbed 10 rebounds, dished out 10 assists and made five steals to dominate play. On Wednesday, Ingham iced the victory by making seven of eight free throws down the stretch.
"This is a dream come true," Ingham told the Anchorage Daily News. "I'm thankful my family got to see me play, because they haven't seen me play for a long time."
Two years ago, Ingham was supposed to be the local attraction when Ohio State came to Anchorage to win the women's Great Alaska Shootout title. But Ingham was only a spectator, since she'd decided to transfer to Nevada after playing two years for the Buckeyes.
"I'm glad we had an opportunity to play a Big Ten team in the championship," Ingham said. "I know a lot of people were writing us off."
This is the second straight year the champion team has had an Alaska connection. Last year, Iowa won the tournament with senior forward Beatrice Bullock (Service High) and senior guard Leah Magner (Colony) on the roster.
Alaska Anchorage 77, Eastern Kentucky 74
By pulling off the upset victory, the Seawolves ended a string of 14 straight losses in the Great Alaska Shootout and the old Northern Lights Invitational dating back to 1995.
The Seawolves (2-2) played aggressive basketball, outshooting and outrebounding the Colonels (2-2) to overcome a two-point halftime deficit.
UAA went on a 14-2 run in the second half to go ahead 59-56. Eastern Kentucky came back to tie the game at 72 with just over one minute to play, but the Seawolves hit five of six free throws in the final minute to secure the victory.
UAA was led by Mary Aschoff's 19 points, Kamie Jo Massey's 15 points and Nizich's 12. Massey also had nine rebounds, four assists, four steals and three blocks, and was named player of the game. Nizich added three rebounds, two assists and a steal.
"We had the confidence to beat them from the beginning," Massey told the Anchorage Daily News.
The victory was especially sweet for UAA coach Brandi Dunigan, since she began her coaching career at Eastern Kentucky prior to joining the Seawolves. She beat her former boss, Eastern Kentucky coach Larry Joe Inman, in Wednesday's game.
UAA's last win over a Division I team came in the 1995 Northern Lights Invitational, when they defeated Loyola Marymount.