Return of the Joe
Aaron Walling / Sun Star
Just like Luke Skywalker in “Star Wars, Episode VI,” senior Joe Slocum returned to the Alaska Nanooks to lead them to the GCI GNAC/PACWest Crossover title after winning two games. This time with top players Travante Williams and Bangaly Kaba, they are aiming for the top spot in the GNAC conference.
The tournament was a huge test to see how the Nanooks would do this season, and they passed with flying colors after handling business against both Hawai’i Pacific and Chaminade. The Nanooks won both games by more than 10 points, and showed off their athleticism multiple times to overwhelm their opponents in all facets of the game. From three pointers, to assists and even to bench play, they dominated their opponents on the floor. Slocum may not have scored much, but it was his leadership in the huddle and on the court that gave the senior guard reasons to smile at the Patty Center. He finished with an average of 11 points and four assists for the tournament.
In this story you need a Han Solo and Chewbacca: insert Travante Williams and Bangaly Kaba. Williams garnered MVP honors for the tournament, after averaging 23.5 points and 3.5 assists, and his daring approach is what sparked the Nanooks in both games. When they needed someone to step up and take control of the game, in came Williams who erupted for 19 points in the first half against Chaminade to put them up 53-52 after trailing 21-4 to start the game. They won 112-102 against Chaminade and won 96-77 against Hawai’i Pacific.
“I’m proud of the way we regrouped and I think our depth really helped us out. We battled back and took the lead at half and I think we had more energy in the second half and that led us to a victory tonight,” Head Coach Mick Durham said.
Williams’s game is both sharpshooting and rocking the rim, which he displayed to the fans at the Patty Center by shooting 56% from the three-point line. However, his punctuating point, which erupted the fans into a frenzy, was the slam dunk in the second half against Chaminade, who were missing explosive plays on offense since Andrew Kelly and Ronnie Baker graduated in 2014. Williams’s counterpart is the relaxed-looking guy named Bangaly Kaba. Their defense and offense are yin and yang. The Nanooks’ forward showed why defense is important after getting three steals in the first game while grabbing an average eight rebounds. Kaba did a great job on defense to keep the other teams in check from the low post to allow the Nanooks to force turnovers. While forcing 14.5 turnovers per game, they also got 18 steals in the tournament.
“I’m excited and pleased with how we played tonight,” Mick Durham said, after the win. “I thought our defensive presence was good tonight. We have a little bit of a different team than we’ve had here in years past. We can pressure a little bit, extend the defense a little more, and I think that really sets the tone for our team.”
The Nanooks now head to the AT&T Jamboree in Anchorage playing against Cal State Dominguez Hills on Friday Nov. 20.
Jaylee Mays Brings Gold to the Nanooks
At the start of the season fans questioned who was going to take over the play of both graduates Kelly Logue and Benissa Bulaya. Look no further than junior transfer Jaylee Mays, who had an amazing debut for the Nanooks during the GNAC/PACWest Challenge. Despite winning one and losing the other, there has been a buzz about how the Nanooks will look this season.
In both games, Mays looked both part Logue on the defensive side, and part Bulaya taking care of the offense. Mays averaged 24 points, seven rebounds, 4.5 assists, and three steals a game in front of the home crowd. She does a lot for the Nanooks in the early season, as she also shot the ball at 50% and hitting 41% from the three point line. You could go on about Mays’s game, however her teammates that played last season for the Nanooks have definitely stepped up in a huge to play against tough competition from the PAC West. Kaillee Skjold was on point in the closing seconds of regulation in the overtime loss to Stanislaus State losing 102-97, hitting a mid-range jumper to tie the game up with .07 seconds left on the clock. In the game against Dixie State winning 83-73, she went nuts scoring nine points straight to put the Nanooks on top for good.
“Our second half defense really pushed the pressure, which led to some easy baskets,” Head Coach Cody Bench said. “We came out with a lot of fire and energy in the second half and that was the difference in the game. We told the girls at half that our defense was going to dictate our offense in the final quarters and they stepped up and made plays.”
The Nanooks play against Brigham Young University-Hawai’i on Wednesday, Nov. 18 in Hawai’i.