By Jordan Stone
SEATTLE – Tony Dominguez said the Vikings were “focused” and there was “a lot of emotion with tonight’s game.
The Vikings men’s basketball team used that focus to battle with the University of Alaska Fairbanks for 40 minutes inside Royal Brougham Pavilion in Seattle.
The Vikings came out on top, 76-64.
With the win, the Vikings advanced to the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Championship Finals, where they will play the University of Alaska Anchorage at 5 p.m. Saturday, March 7.
Senior forward Trevor Jasinsky led the way for the Vikings, filling up the stat sheet with 24 points, five rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a steal.
He had several clutch buckets when Fairbanks was threatening to take control, highlighted by a big 3-pointer from the right wing to break a 40-40 tie.
The senior forward also had a crucial block on Fairbanks’ junior guard Shadeed Shabazz – who had a game high of 29 points – and followed that up with a silky jumper following a deft euro-step just a minute later to put the Vikings up nine.
“My teammates were out there looking for me, for my shot,” Jasinsky said. “Coach has been encouraging me to shoot all season, even going through some rough patches.”
The leadership of the seniors, especially captains Jasinsky, Siaan Rojas and Logan Schilder, has been key for the Vikings.
“A senior-heavy team is important,” Dominguez said. “[Trevor] does a great job of leading. Cam Retherford came in at the end and played really well. Siaan did a great job. I can keep going down the list.”
It wasn’t just the seniors who took pride in their leadership. After getting into early foul trouble, redshirt freshman guard D’Angelo Minnis made sure he stayed involved while he was off the floor.
“Just trying to lead from the bench, be as vocal as I can to make my presence known on and off the court,” Minnis said. “Props to my team for taking care of business today.”
The Vikings had their hands full all game trying to keep Shabazz, the GNAC’s leading scorer, in check. They tried several different defenders on him, including Minnis, Jasinsky and guard RJ Secrest. Jasinsky and Minnis said that they were trying to be “a pest” when they were guarding Shabazz.
“Man, he’s one of the best players I’ve seen come through the league in my four or five years here,” Jasinsky said. “The dude just knows how to get to the rack. When he’s hitting his three, man, he’s really tough to guard.”
Last season, the Vikings hosted the GNAC Championships, but failed to qualify. That didn’t change their approach for this year, however.
“If you ask any of the guys in the locker room, they will tell you we expected to be here,” Jasinsky said. “That’s just the kind of confidence we have. When we all play together and we’re working together as a unit, we are as good as any team in the country.”
Friday was the third matchup between Fairbanks and the Vikings this season. The two teams had split the previous two, winning in each other’s home courts. Their last meeting was at Sam Carver Gymnasium on Feb. 6 when Fairbank’s Shabazz dropped 43 points en route to a 96-85 Fairbanks win. Those 43 points tied the Carver record for individual points scored in a game.
The Vikings were without their leading scorer, sophomore forward Jalen Green, Friday, who was out with a right wrist injury. Retherford took his spot in the starting lineup.
The Vikings capped off their 14-0 run with just under a minute to go, sealing the game with an electric alley-oop from Secrest to Retherford, who threw down the dunk. Retherford was pumped up afterwards, fist pumping and showing plenty of emotion.
“Really cool,” Dominguez said about the dunk. “It was really fun, yeah.”
The Vikings will take on the University of Alaska Anchorage Saturday. Tip-off will be at 5 p.m. The Vikings already have two wins against Anchorage under their belt this season. The last was an 85-81 overtime win at Carver back on Feb. 8.
The winner of tomorrow’s championship will go on to the NCAA II west regionals which begin Friday, March 13.