LACEY, Wash. – Forward Jeffrey Parker (R-Fr., Richmond, CA/Salesian) scored a game-high 21 points, 16 in the first half, as Western Washington University defeated University of Alaska Fairbanks, 73-52, in a semifinal men’s basketball game Thursday at the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Tournament being held at Marcus Pavilion on the campus of host Saint Martin’s University.
Forward Joey Schreiber (Fr., Renton/Eastside Catholic) scored 14 points and point guard Robert Harris, Jr. (Sr., Kent/Rainier Beach) added 10, all of them in the second half, for the Vikings, the No.2 seed, who improved to 20-7 and advanced to Saturday’s GNAC championship game (5:15 p.m.) against either No.1 seed Seattle Pacific or No.6 Western Oregon.
UAF, the No.4 seed, ended its season at18-10, shooting just 29.0 percent (18-of-62) from the floor. Ronnie Baker scored 18 points and Sergej Pucar 12 for the Nanooks. Baker had just four in the first half and Pucar two.
UAF, which had a three-game winning streak snapped, reached the semifinals by defeating Montana State Billings, 69-59, in an opening-round contest Wednesday.
WWU guard Richard Woodworth (Sr., Bellevue/Newport), a first-team GNAC all-star, sustained an injury to his right knee one minute into the second half and did not return to action.
WWU led 17-5 after the first 11:38 as the Nanooks made just two of their first 19 shots from the field.
With 5:36 left in the period, UAF had crept back to within five, 19-14. But the Vikings responded by scoring the last 19 points of the half, the run beginning with five straight 3-pointers, four of them by Parker, to lead by 24, 38-14, at the intermission.
“I just came out firing,” said Parker, who finished 5-of-6 from 3-point range. “I knew that I had to be aggressive.”
The Nanooks shot just 15.6 percent from the field (5-of-32) in the first half, making just 1-of-10 3-point attempts.
UAF began the second half with a 13-1 run, cutting the deficit to 12, 39-27, on a 3-pointer by Pucar with 15 minutes left.
But that was as close as the Nanooks would get as WWU scored 15 of the next 19 points to lead, 54-31, with 11:21 to go. The Vikings’ biggest advantage was 27 points on two occasions, the first at 65-38 with five minutes remaining.
WWU had a 43-29 rebound advantage with forward Anye Turner (Jr., Tumwater/Black Hills) grabbing a game-high 10 and Harris and Parker nine each.
The victory clinched a third straight 20-win season for WWU as head coach Tony Dominguez became the first coach in school history to reach the 20-win plateau in each of his first two seasons.
“Once we got comfortable, we got into a grove, everything began to click,” said Dominguez.