The University of Alaska Fairbanks women’s basketball team fell to the Lake Erie College Storm 84-76 in Saturday’s championship game of the Mt. McKinley Bank North Star Invitational on the Alaska Airlines Court in the UAF Patty Center.
The tournament runner-up and host team had started the round-robin competition with Thursday’s 87-73 win over the Chadron State Eagles and followed Friday with a 63-33 romp of the Converse College Valkyries.
Saturday’s loss dropped the Nanooks to 5-4 overall and ended a three-game winning streak.
Jocelyn Gandara lead the Nanooks with another strong showing, tossing up a team-high 25 points and pulling in nine rebounds in the North Star final. The junior guard from El Paso, Texas was 11-14 from the free-throw line.
“The highlight of the tournament was my teammates,” said Gandara. “They knew what they had to do and they came out and did it.”
Gandara, who transferred to UAF from Lassen Community College, of Susanville, California, had 17 points in the win Chadron State and 10 points
Fellow guard and freshman Sam Tolliver contributed 14 points Saturday and senior guard Kylie Wallace added 11 points for the Nanooks in the title game.
Former Lathrop High School standout Olivia Kraska came off the bench in the second quarter and provided seven points and grabbed three minutes in 6 minutes, 30 seconds of play in the quarter.
Senior Brittany Richards kicked off Saturday’s action for the Nanooks by swishing in a 3-pointer from the baseline just seconds after the opening tip-off. UAF followed with a bucket from Wallace and a pair of free throws from Richards for a 7-0 lead.
UAF held its lead until the final minute of the first quarter, when a basket from Storm junior guard Josie Chaddock tied the score at 11. A free throw from freshman guard Laney Billing put Lake Erie up 12-11 to end the quarter.
The teams were evenly matched in the second quarter, putting up 19 points apiece. The first half ended with Lake Erie up 31-30.
The Storm came out strong in the third quarter and the Nanooks defense struggled to adjust, allowing the visitors from Painesville, Ohio and the Great Midwest Athletic Conference to outscore UAF 30-20 in the third and head into the final quarter with an 11-point lead.
“Our defense got really sloppy,” said Tolliver. “We were getting lazy and not helping each other.”
Despite several scoring runs in the fourth quarter that brought them within six points of the Storm, the Nanooks were unable to close the gap.
The struggling Nanooks defense allowed the Storm to earn 54 of their total game points inside the paint.
Chaddock finished with a game-high 31 points for the Storm, including 11-11 from the free-throw line. Teammate and sophomore post player Breanna Bauer chipped in 22.
Chaddock received the tournament’s most valuable player award and was named to the all-tournament team along Bauer. Other all-tournament selections were Wallace, Converse redshirt sophomore guard Alexis McMillian and Chadron State junior guard Taryn Foxen.
“We came into the tournament looking to play for first place and we were able to put the puzzle pieces together today and make it happen,” Chaddock said.
Chaddock was the leading scorer throughout the tournament for a Lake Erie squad which was 0-7 before coming to Fairbanks.
Chaddock produced 15 points in Thursday’s 67-53 win over Converse and 25 points in Friday’s 71-59 win over Chadron State.
The Nanooks begin Great Northwest Athletic Conference play this week at the Patty Center. The Western Oregon Wolves visit at 5:15 p.m. Thursday and the Concordia Cavaliers, of Portland, Oregon, come to the Patty Center for a contest at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“We’ve been tested in a lot of different ways and gotten to work on a lot of different areas in this preseason play,” said Nanooks head coach Kerri Nakamoto. “Going into GNAC play, you have to be ready, every single night is a battle.”
Converse – Chadron
Chadron State, of Chadron, Nebraska and the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, finished the North Star Invitational in third place after an 81-63 victory over Converse College earlier Saturday.
Foxen scored a game-high 26 points and contributed eight rebounds for the 2-7 Eagles. Senior guard Melisa Kadic contributed a double-double of 16 points and a game-high 14 rebounds for Chadron State, which got 14 points, seven rebounds and a game-best nine assists from sophomore guard Jori Peters.
Converse, 1-7 overall, was led by junior guard Ashley Sides’ 13. Freshman guard Lindsey Hardin came off the bench and scored 10 points for the Eagles, of Spartanburg, South Carolina, and Conference Carolinas.
Redshirt senior guard and fellow Converse reserve player Bhrianna Jackson recorded game highs of seven rebounds and seven assists to go with seven points.
News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin contributed to this report. Contact the News-Miner sports department at 459-7586.