Ellie Logan had no idea.
The Northwest Nazarene senior guard didn’t realize what her team had just done even while teammates piled on top of each other and busted out dance moves like the floss.
It only came to her attention during the postgame press conference. The fact that the Northwest Nazarene women’s basketball team won the first Great Northwest Athletic Conference Tournament Championship in program history that is.
The ninth-ranked Nighthawks made school history by defeating No. 5 Alaska Anchorage 70-64 Saturday at Bellingham, Washington.
They will now head to the NCAA Division II National Tournament for the second straight year with the GNAC’s automatic bid in the West Regional.
NNU (28-2) will find out its seed and first-round opponent at 8 tonight.
“It’s special for sure,” senior guard McKenna Walker said. “Like everyone knows from our program, we just love each other so much, so it’s special to do it with this group of girls. It just makes it so much sweeter when you enjoy the people you’re playing with.”
Logan logged a team-high 15 points and eight rebounds. Walker also reached double figures with 11 points and five boards for the Nighthawks, who nearly let the historic moment slip away.
The Seawolves (28-2) erased an 18-point second-quarter deficit by taking their first lead of the game at 54-53 with 9:32 remaining on a pair of free throws by Sydni Stallworth. They then extended their advantage to three at 56-53 a few seconds later to cap a 9-1 run that began with 2:10 left in the third quarter.
Alaska Anchorage followed that up by leading by three on two more occasions in the fourth. The last of which came at 62-59 with 5:17 remaining after two free throws by Safiyyah Yasin.
But NNU maintained its composure.
The Nighthawks took the lead back at 63-62 less than two minutes later on a layup by Danielle Jardine. The Seawolves, though, regained the lead at 64-63 with 3:27 left on a couple of free throws by Yazmeen Goo.
However, that ended up being Alaska Anchorage’s final points.
Jardine’s free throws with 2:39 left gave Northwest Nazarene the lead for good at 66-64. It was the final of six lead changes in a seven-minute stretch.
The Seawolves missed their final six shots, a pair of free throws and committed a crucial turnover down the stretch. It resulted in them being held scoreless for the final 3:27 of the game.
“It just speaks to how much we trust each other,” Logan said. “I don’t think any person thought we were going to lose the game. When you look around at the people standing next to you, you get a lot of confidence from each one of them. We just know our people are going to come through in the big moments.”
NNU scored the first eight points of the game and opened the second quarter on a 13-0 run. Alaska Anchorage, which entered the game on a 21-game winning streak, didn’t record its first point of the second quarter until a free throw by Stallworth with 4:13 to go in the first half. The Seawolves’ first field goal didn’t come until two minutes later.
It all led to the Nighthawks taking their biggest lead of the game at 41-23 with three minutes left following a trey by Erin Jenkins.
“I think it was our versatility,” Logan said. “It wasn’t any one person going off. It was just one person after another. How many people we can throw at another team just really stood out.”
Tara Thompson tallied a game-high 16 points for Alaska Anchorage. GNAC Player of the Year Hannah Wandersee added 13 points, while Goo had another 12 for the Seawolves, who hadn't loss since Dec. 1.
That was a 84-68 defeat to the same NNU team they faced Saturday. The two programs split during the regular season. Alaska Anchorage downed NNU 64-55 for the GNAC regular season title on Feb. 28.
The Seawolves had won three of the past four GNAC Tournament championships. They finished as the national runner-up in 2016 and a at-large bid tonight will mark their 19th NCAA Tournament appearance.
“Honestly, I never thought of it as a rivalry because they’ve been so good for so long, and we’re just trying to catch up to them,” NNU coach Steve Steele said. “But maybe this season changes the tone of that, and if that’s what it is, that’s a compliment to us.”
NNU and Alaska Anchorage will be in the same West Regional, so a fourth meeting is likely.
But Northwest Nazarene isn’t thinking about that right now.
“We’re going to celebrate this tonight,” Steele said. “We’ll figure out everything else and I’ll start worrying and working next week. But for today and tomorrow, we’re going to celebrate.”