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Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Men’s basketball GNAC champs

Leif Anderson converts clutch four-point play to give Vikings first championship since 2017

Freshman guard D’Angelo Minnis (foreground) celebrates with his team on Saturday, March 7. // Photo courtesy Western Athletics

By Jordan Stone

Senior guard Leif Anderson hits the game-changing 3-pointer on Saturday, March 7. // Photo courtesy of Western Athletics

Down by four with under two minutes to play, senior center Logan Schilder fouled out. The Vikings looked defeated. It appeared the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Championship was slipping away.

But senior guard Leif Anderson stepped up and hit the biggest shot of the season, and possibly his life. The Bellingham native hit a 3-pointer from the corner, absorbing contact from University of Alaska Anchorage junior center Oggie Pantovic and drawing a foul in the process. The improbable four-point play gave the Vikings a one-point lead and they never trailed again.

“They told me all year, ‘If you’re open, shoot the ball. We trust you,’” Anderson said. “Luckily the shot went in. It’s surreal. It was awesome.”

Anchorage trusted senior guard Tyrus Hosley to take their last shot and the Vikings trusted sophomore guard RJ Secrest to prevent him from making it. Mosley attempted a step-back three with a hand in his face and missed. Senior captain Trevor Jasinsky came up with the rebound and was fouled with 1.1 seconds on the clock.

“I knew I was going to hit them,” Jasinsky said. “In my head I just told myself I wasn’t going to miss them. All my teammates around me were telling me I was going to hit them. It just spoke into existence.”

Jasinsky sunk both and the Vikings held on to win the game 81-78 and their first GNAC tournament championship since the 2016-17 season. Jasinksy was named tournament MVP during the postgame ceremony.

“In the first game, the shot was going and in this game the shot wasn’t going,” he said. “Just trying to go out there and do everything I could to help us win this game.“

In the first game against the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Jasinsky went 8-of-14 from the field and 5-of-9 from 3-point range. In the championship however, he went 4-of-14 and failed to make a 3-pointer in seven attempts. 

After the final whistle blew, the Vikings erupted into celebration. The team was honored with the GNAC Championship trophy, which Jasinsky was the first to hold as he thrust it into the air.

The Vikings also got to cut down the net that caught Anderson’s clutch three. Senior captain Siaan Rojas was the first to cut a piece off and coach Dominguez was the last. 

“Obviously, it was a phenomenal game,” Dominguez said. “I’m not trying to be too emotional, we just had a lot of stuff behind the scenes and it all just came together this year. It’s been awesome.”

Rojas hit several clutch shots for the Vikings, many of which came creating for himself off the dribble. He finished the game tied with Anderson as the Vikings’ leading scorer with 16.

The Vikings led by as many as 14 points in the first half and went into the intermission up 45-33. But after halftime, Anchorage steadily chipped away.

“You’re a little worried when you’re up big at halftime,” Dominguez said. “You know they are going to come in with a whole lot more energy. We knew they would storm back.”

The Vikings struggled offensively after the break, due to Anchorage’s zone defense scheme, according to Dominguez.

“They had went zone and it kind of threw us off a little bit,” he said. “Not because we couldn’t handle the zone. We were in a rhythm in our man [offense] so it took us two or three plays to adjust.”

Jasinsky and Dominguez’s five years together culminated in an emotional embrace, highlighting the bond they have created over that time. 

“It was emotional for me because he’s [the] true essence of a Viking,” Dominguez said.

Jasinsky was a freshman the last time the Vikings were conference champions. His role on the team was a lot different this time around.

“My freshman year I was just learning from greats before me,” he said. “I was a role player, coming into myself and the player that I was going to become.”

The Vikings, who qualified as an eight seed, will play the University of San Diego, the one seed in the West Regional of the NCAA Division II Tournament. Regionals will begin Friday, March 13.

“The West is incredible and getting into the top eight is incredible,” Dominguez said. “We’ll game plan and see how we match up and what we need to do.

But first, the Vikings celebrated their championship.

The best way to celebrate a win?

“Go get a burger,” Dominguez said.

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