Nanooks win emotional game against Central Washington

Sparling’s squad wins first GNAC game of the season
Published: Jan. 17, 2022 at 7:46 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Alaska Nanooks Men’s Basketball team has had a difficult start to their season whether it has been the three consecutive GNAC conference games postponed or opening their conference schedule 0-3. Regardless, the Nanooks returned to the court, Saturday, to face the Central Washington Wildcats.

Alaska started the game strong building a twelve point lead mid-way through the first half. Central Washington’s offense sturggled to get out of the gates too, not recording double digit points until thirteen minutes into the first half. That was relatively short-lived though as the trend changed. Alaska’s offense stalled while the Wildcats were able to cut into the Nanooks lead.

When the first half concluded, the Nanooks went to the locker room holding onto a two point lead, knowing that the second half was going to be a tough battle too. In the first half, senior guard, Shadeed Shabazz, surpassed the 1,000 point mark in his career in a Nanook uniform. Shabazz becomes the fifteenth Nanook to accomplish this milestone.

The second half was filled with back and forth runs for each team, but neither team was able to establish a double-digit lead. With 4:38 remaining in regulation, Abdullahi Mohamed tied the game at 70′s for UAF, and then the game began to get very interesting. A Shabazz field goal and Quin Barnard three-pointer made it 75-70 in favor of UAF, but the Wildcats refused to go away, and free throws down the stretch for both teams created a 76-76 tie with one minute and twelve seconds remaining to play.

Wildcats’ David Thomson, who tied a team-high 29 points, gave Central the lead with 0:22 left on the clock. That was too much time though for UAF. Shadeed Shabazz was able to drive the lane, but couldn’t get the shot to go, but a foul was called. The outcome was simple: make both free throws and overtime would follow, but miss one and the Wildcats would most likely walk away with the victory.

Shabazz proceeded to make both free throws with little nerves. Central still had enough time to take a final shot, but a steal from Willie Thomas III halted the chance, and there wasn’t enough time for UAF to put together a shot either.

The Wildcats and Nanooks headed to the five-minute overtime (heading into the game Alaska held a 1-0 overtime record). The extra five was favorable to Nanooks to start. Before the game even started, the Nanooks had seven available players on their bench, and both Willie Thomas III and Abdullahi Mohamed entered over time with four personal fouls, and they both fouled-out of the game just over mid-way through over time.

That meant that if either Shadeed Shabazz or Koby Huerta (both had four personal fouls) committed one more foul, they too would be disqualified and Alaska would have been forced to finish the game short-handed. Thankfully, both Shabazz or Huerta exercised discipline and didn’t commit fouls allowing them to finish the game.

With only a minute and a half remaining, the Nooks held a six point lead, and despite the comfortable feeling some might have had at the Patty during that moment, the Wildcats came back, just like they did in the first half.

Central’s David Thompson tied the game 95-95 just like he did in the end of the second half, and 0:14 seconds remained on the clock. Just as Thomson tied the game for the second time, Shadeed Shabazz too had the response to Thompson. Shabazz put the team on his back, drove the lane, and got the difficult shot to fall. One second left on the clock, CWU’s full-court heave was off the mark, and the Alaska Airlines Gymnasium at the Patty Center erupted. The Alaska Nanooks wins their first GNAC game of the season, 97-95 in overtime.

““Yeah, I feel like today we came together as a team, more than any other game you know,” said Shabazz following the game. “Just like Quin (Barnard) said, it was a big game for coach (Sparling) and his son (Coleman). We took the initiative to come out and play hard not only for them, but for us, because we’re trying to get a win. I was tired of losing... I’m tired of losing.”

Shadeed Shabazz posted a 23 point, 12 rebound double-double. Quin Barnard matched Shadeed’s 23 points off the bench on an impressive shooting performance from beyond the arc going 7-12 (58%). Coleman Sparling had a small number of points (seven), but dominated the glass, grabbing fifteen rebounds and also dished out six assists.

The reason why it was such an emotional game for Coach, Greg Sparling, and his son Coleman was because Greg Sparling is a Central Washington alumnus and coached the Wildcats’ men’s basketball team for twenty four years. Coleman Sparling grew up in Ellensburg, and justifiably was a childhood fan of the team his father coached. Following the victory, Coach Sparling walked out of the handshake line visibly pumping his fist. Coleman was overcome with emotions and instantly hugged his father and mother who huddled together and shared a special moment together after the game.

““The thing about that is, Coleman was sleeping on the sidelines when he was a baby, he made his first basket at Central (Washington), and there’s a lot of memories there, that’s why he got so emotional,” said Coach Sparling in the postgame interview. “Because he knows that we’re still grounded to the community there, but we’re also grounded to the community here. I couldn’t be more happy for him. We’re going to keep moving forward.”

The Nanooks will keep moving forward tomorrow afternoon with a makeup game against Simon Fraser at 1:00 p.m. AKST in Burnaby, British Columbia. The Nanooks currently hold a 4-7 overall record (1-4 GNAC) and the rematch against the Wildcats will be February 10th in Ellensburg.

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