The Grand Canyon women’s basketball team came back from a 12-point first quarter deficit and controlled the second and third periods to defeat Seattle, 60-53, Saturday in Phoenix. Jessica Gajewski led the Antelopes (13-13, 5-5 WAC) with 19 points, and Masha Shtikel scored 15 (5-of-8 from long range) for the Redhawks (9-16, 3-7).
Antelopes guard Alyx Bloom knocked down a three for an early 7-2 lead, only to be answered with one off the fingers of Seattle’s Tal Sahar 20 seconds later. Gajewski’s three would be responded to in a similar pattern with one from Shtikel that would ignite a 15-0 run towards the final minute of the first quarter. During the run, Shtikel would drain three treys.
The Antelopes would come back in the second with Gajewski scoring nine and Bloom six. A perfect three from Bloom that barely brushed the lacing of the net with two minutes remaining, knotted it at 28-28, and Gajewski’s jump shot with 44 seconds left gave GCU a 32-31 advantage into halftime.
“We just have to wake up sooner,” GCU coach Trent May said. “We come out of the locker room before the game, we seem ready, they say they’re ready, but you actually have to go do the work. The mindset is one thing, the action behind the mindset another. I’m proud of the girls because we could get down early and stay down.”
GCU maintained its lead throughout the third, ballooning it in the final minutes to double digits, while holding the Redhawks to 4-of- 15 shooting. Gajewski’s three at the buzzer made it 52-39, as GCU outscored Seattle 20-9 and 20-8 in the middle periods. The Redhawks made a run in the late fourth, and Jacinta Beckley brought them within four from the line with two minutes. After a free throw, Sahar missed the game-tying three with 3.6 seconds on the clock, and a loose-ball four turned it over to GCU. Dana Jones and Gajewski iced it from the line, and the Antelopes moved back to .500 on the year and snapped a three-game home losing streak.
“We made it interesting, stressful for me,” May said. “She (Gajewski) made some big shots and free throws. She was feeling that shot today, she took some big charges today, every positive step we can make in the game, we’ll definitely take them.”
GCU had won at Seattle 67-54 Jan. 30. Bloom finished with 13, and Cheyenne Hendrington had a double-double of 10 points and 12 rebounds for GCU. Jones also grabbed 11 boards, and Courtney Hayes dished nine assists for the Antelopes. Seattle senior Cydnee Ceballos, who is from Phoenix’s Shadow Mountain High School and the daughter of former NBA player Cedric Ceballos, collected 11 points and 11 rebounds, and Taelor Ross scored 10 with seven rebounds. Sahar added eight rebounds and four steals, as well.
“We just really wanted to come out and win today,” said Gajewski, who is from Brisbane, Australia. “We all just worked as a team today, which is good. We really dug down and picked up our defense and converted our offense, which is really what we needed to do. It’s a great opportunity to come here, we don’t really have anything like this in Australia; college sports are great, fantastic.”
The Antelopes are next in action at 6 p.m. Thursday at the University of Missouri Kansas City and return to Phoenix at 7 p.m. Feb. 25 versus CSU Bakersfield. Seattle will host the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Thursday. The Redhawks are coached by former University of Arizona coach Joan Bonvicini and assisted by former Arizona State center Sybil Dosty.