Senior guards Mariah Seals and Taylor Christensen have shared the floor as the Utah Valley women's basketball backcourt leaders during their four years donning the green and white jerseys.
On Senior Day, Christensen and Seals shared one final moment together on UVU's home court with double-doubles to lift the Wolverines (11-17, 5-8 WAC) to an 84-64 victory over WAC foe Grand Canyon (14-13, 8-5 WAC) inside Lockhart Arena on Saturday afternoon.
"We wanted to come out and be leaders today," said Seals. "I think we did exactly what everyone kind of expected us to do. It's been a long journey here, and I'm not going to know what to do now that I won't be playing [in this building] again. It's been so much fun playing here over the past four years."
Seals finished with a team-high 20 points and career-high-tying 10 assists in her second career double-double, while Christensen poured in 19 points on an efficient 7-of-9 shooting clip paired with 10 rebounds. Together, the Wolverine backcourt duo had their hand in 72 points with their scoring and a combined 13 assists to outshine GCU senior guard Jessica Gajewski's game-high 27 points.
The Wolverines continued their hot 3-point shooting that stemmed from their last game, as they mirrored their conference-play high with nine 3-pointers (9-of-17) and a 52.9 percent mark for the second-consecutive game. Despite the WAC's most accurate 3-point shooter in Gajewski going 7-of-9 from 3-point range, UVU kept the rest of the Antelopes shooters at bay from downtown on a 5-of-21 mark to help the squad win the battle from long range on the day.
With the game notched at 20-20, UVU grabbed the lead for the remainder of the game with a 22-5 run in the last 9:15 of the first half. Seals led the way with eight points during that stretch.
"Everybody was telling me to be aggressive. I like to shoot threes a lot, but my teammates and coaches know that one of my strengths is to get to the rim. I tried to mix it up a little bit so defenders couldn't read what I was doing," Seals said.
The 5-foot-3 guard, Seals ignited the big second-quarter run with her involvement in six points during a 10-2 run that put UVU ahead 30-22 with 4:44 left in the period. Within a three minute and 21-second span, Seals assisted on a layup by sophomore center Leya Harvey before adding a pair of two-point jumpers in her explosive eight-point quarter.
Christensen, who also added a pair of free throws to start the Wolverine burst, began to put her stamp on the game with four points, four rebounds and two steals in the second quarter. After a Gajewski basket ended a 10-0 UVU burst, Christensen nailed a jumper from the left baseline, recorded a steal that led to a Seals fast break layup and set up a 3-pointer by freshman guard Ally Bates to extend UVU's lead to 37-14 with 3:15 to go in the period.
In spite of a trio of threes from Gajewski and senior guard August Touchard that pulled GCU to within 15 with 6:29 left in the third quarter, UVU followed with a 7-2 run to open its first 20-point lead of the afternoon. Christensen and Seals set each other up for layups and junior guard Britta Spencer hit a 3-pointer on Seals' sixth assist in that span to help the Wolverines grab a 58-38 lead.
After Cortez drained a 3-pointer from the wing on a pass from Seals with 1:31 left in the third quarter, Christensen took over the reins by outscoring Grand Canyon, 7-0, in 1:35 to help UVU ice the game. Along with a layup at the end of the third period, Christensen exploited GCU's defense with back-to-back mid-range jumpers for a string of three-straight field goals to hand the Wolverines their second-largest lead, 68-45.
Outside of keeping the 'Lopes shooting percentage in check, Utah Valley held the WAC's second-leading scorer in Brie Mobley to single digits with seven points. With only one GCU scorer in double figures, the Wolverines kept their opponent to 64 points or less for the third time in their last four contests.
Joining in their senior teammates' big outing, Leos added a career-high-matching 16 points and Cortez contributed 11 points for the Wolverines. Leos hit nearly half of UVU's 3-pointers on the day with a 4-of-5 mark, while Cortez went a perfect 3-of-3 to fuel the Wolverines from beyond the arc.
UVU also outdueled the 'Lopes on the glass with a 40-17 advantage during the game.
Checking in with 2:14 left on the game clock, senior forward Brighton Taylor logged her first two minutes of action this season to chime in on the Senior Day fun. Taylor grabbed a defensive rebound on a missed 3-pointer by Mobley, which led to a loud uproar from the crowd for her first career board.
With the game nearly wrapped with 55 seconds remaining, Seals and Christensen both checked out of Lockhart Arena for the final time of their careers to a series of hugs and high fives from their teammates and cheers from the crowd.
"It is crazy to think that this is my last game here. I've had a great career here and have been very happy at UVU, so I'm very glad to leave here with a win," said Christensen.
UVU heads back on the road to finish the 2017-18 campaign with a contest at Seattle U on Saturday, March 3. The game against the Redhawks is slated for a 3 p.m. MT start.