FAIRBANKS — The Alaska Nanooks had a strong first quarter against Central Washington University on Thursday night in the University of Alaska Fairbanks Patty Center.
The opening quarter, in which the Nanooks trailed by a point, was a bright spot for Alaska in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference women’s basketball game on the Patty Center’s Alaska Airlines Court.
The other quarters, particularly in the second half, weren’t as strong and the Nanooks lost 77-50 to the playoff-bound Wildcats, of Ellensburg, Washington.
Head coach Kerri Nakamoto said it was tough for the Nanooks to give up 77 points in a quick game. The contest lasted a little more than 90 minutes.
“I think it’s just hard, scoring wise, for us to produce that amount of points,’’ Nakamoto said in the postgame media conference. “We just have to do a better job defensively, not allowing people to score that many points, and that (Thursday) comes off some miscommunication on switching and just some transition stuff.
“I thought, offensively, we played OK. We just didn’t knock down the shots in the second half. I don’t know if that was fatigue or what. We’ll look to finish strong on Saturday.”
The Nanooks, 4-21 overall and 1-18 GNAC for 11th place in the 11-team NCAA Division II conference, close the season against the Northwest Nazarene Nighthawks at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“I really want them to focus on enjoying their last game,’’ Nakamoto said. “What I want them to remember regardless of the outcome is the feeling of having fun, and enjoying playing with each other.
“This group of girls loves each other. I never coached a team that gets along as great as them.”
The Nanooks seemingly enjoyed themselves in the first quarter Thursday. They trailed 19-18 at the end of the quarter but had a 15-7 lead by the 5:50 mark.
Junior guard Sabrina Ungaro scored 10 of her 15 points during the surge. Ungaro, who shared the game-high scoring lead with Wildcats junior guard Alexis Pana, had two 3-point baskets during the surge.
“I think for me, I was just looking for the open shot and stuff,” said Ungaro, “and me and Mare kind of killed it in the first quarter, and we were looking for each other and our teammates to be open.
“I think we just went into game like ‘OK, we’ve got it. We’ve got something to prove.’ Because we’ve already won a game and we wanted to get another win but it fell in the second half.”
Marian Wamsley contributed 12 points and battled for a team-high seven rebounds for the Nanooks. The senior forward often battled two to three Wildcats for rebounds.
“They were pretty scrappy and I just had to find position and hold position,’’ Wamsley said. “A lot of the time they would slip around. They were quick.”
Fourth-place Central Washington (17-9, 12-7 GNAC) battled to take the lead for good.
Alexis Pana put the Wildcats ahead 19-18 with 22 seconds left in the first quarter and she drained a 3-pointer with 9:30 left in the second quarter for a 22-18 lead.
“We just told them to get back to details and what we do and just to relax, and not look at the scoreboard,’’’ said Wildcats head coach Randi Richardson-Thornley, “and just worry about playing good offense and good defense.”
The Wildcats got 13 points from sophomore forward Kassidy Malcolm, and 12 each from senior guard Sadie Mensing and senior forward JonNae Richardson. Mensing also had a game-high five assists and Richardson collected a game-high nine rebounds.
Central Washington ends the regular season at Alaska Anchorage on Saturday, and heads to the GNAC Championship Tournament on March 6-9 in Bellingham, Washington.