Defense sparks Saints women

mwochnick@theolympian.comJanuary 9, 2014 

What happens when the Great Northwest Athletic Conference’s No. 1 scoring offense and scoring defense teams meet?

Something has to give, and Saint Martin’s women’s basketball coach Tim Healy said he hopes that goes in the Saints’ favor.

The first-place Saints (9-3 overall, 3-0 GNAC) embark on their first conference road trip of the season when they visit Alaska Fairbanks on Thursday and Alaska Anchorage on Saturday.

SMU and Alaska Anchorage (10-2, 3-1) own the GNAC’s top scoring defense and offense, respectively. The Saints allow an average of 54.2 points per game, more than seven points a game below what Seattle Pacific allows (61.6), while Anchorage averages 86.8 points per game on offense, which is jump-started by its defense, averaging a whopping 16.2 steals per contest.

“It’s a clash of completely different styles,” Healy said.

Saint Martin’s is off to one of its best starts in program history, and is 3-0 in conference play for the first time since 2004-05.

Since a 71-54 nonconference loss to Pacific Lutheran on Nov. 30, the Saints have won six in a row. A big reason for the streak is Healy implementing his match-up defense, installing it just before the team’s conference opener against Central Washington. That’s led to big results on the defensive end: the Saints have held opponents to 49 or fewer points in four of the past six games, including Saturday’s 77-46 win over Western Oregon.

“It was a turning point for us,” said Healy, claiming the defense is the best he’s had “top to bottom.”

“That’s where we’ve dominated teams.”

The Saint Martin’s men, fresh off its upset of No. 11-ranked Seattle Pacific, 73-69, make their second conference road trip of the season to Central Washington on Thursday and Northwest Nazarene Saturday. The win over the Falcons was SMU’s first over a ranked opponent since 2010.

COACHING LEGEND APPROACHING 1,000 WINS

Evergreen men’s basketball team seeks its first win in Cascade Collegiate Conference play, hosting Southern Oregon (15-2) and Oregon Tech (11-7) Friday and Saturday, respectively.

Longtime Oregon Tech coach Danny Miles is closing in on 1,000 wins and could get it Saturday against Evergreen.

Miles has 998 career wins (second all-time among all men’s college coaches) heading into this weekend’s games. OIT plays at Northwest on Friday before coming to Olympia to play Evergreen at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

In 43 seasons as coach of the Owls, Miles career record is 998-403, leading OIT to three NAIA national titles (2004, ’08, ’12).

HOMECOMING FOR WEBER

New Mexico State women’s basketball team, which features starting guard Sasha Weber, a 2011 Timberline High graduate, will face Seattle University in a Western Athletic Conference game at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Connolly Center in Seattle.

Weber is second on the team in scoring at 11.4 points per game for the 4-10 Aggies.

MORE HAMLIN HONORS

After leading Eastern Washington to the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) semifinals, linebacker Ronnie Hamlin, a 2009 Timberline High graduate, was named to the FCS Athletic Directors Association academic all-star team.

Hamlin, a technology major, has a 3.54 grade-point average. He earned All-America honors in 2013 after finishing with 140 tackles to rank as the fourth-most in Eastern history for a single season. His 361 career tackles ranks third all-time at EWU.

Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 mwochnick@theolympian.com theolympian.com/southsoundsports @MegWochnick

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