GNAC tournament preview: Wiedeman is on the rebound

After a growth spurt in high school, Megan Wiedeman developed into a tough rebounder for Saint Martin’s

mwochnick@theolympian.comMarch 5, 2014 

LACEY — Growing 8 inches in a single year would seem like a blessing for a basketball player. But for Saint Martin’s Megan Wiedeman, it wasn’t all positive.

She was forced to change positions and adapt quickly to playing inside. Wiedeman soon realized that learning to rebound was No. 1 on the list.

Now, rebounding has become a sixth sense for the Saints’ 6-foot sophomore forward.

“It’s triggered in my brain to get the rebound,” she said.

That skill paved Wiedeman’s path to Saint Martin’s out of high school, and it’s one that has helped her flourish in her second season with the Saints. Her play the past six weeks is a big reason they are in the postseason for the first time since 2011 as part of the six-team Great Northwest Athletic Conference women’s tournament on Saint Martin’s home floor at Marcus Pavilion starting Wednesday.

The Saints (17-10 overall, 11-7 GNAC) are the sixth seed and play third-seeded Alaska Anchorage (19-7, 12-6) – one of four teams the Saints

swept this season.

The six-team GNAC men’s tournament also tips off Wednesday at SMU.

Wiedeman’s off-the-court personality is reminiscent of the girl next door, not of someone who averages 6.7 rebounds a game – including 10 or more in five of the past seven games. She’s big into girl talk, shopping and waiting for that all-inclusive spa treatment for her nails once basketball season ends.

“They’re getting a bit gnarly”, she said.

But on game nights, she puts on her game face. While she’s interchangeable with senior Chelsea Haskey in the lineup, she credits Haskey for helping her develop as she goes against the Black Hills graduate daily in practice.

“She’s been a great influence on me,” said Wiedeman, a biology major who aspires to go into nursing. “She always knows what to do and keeps your head high in the game. She’s been there for me since the beginning.”

At Skyline High School in Sammamish, Wiedeman entered her freshman year a small and slender 5-2. By the end of her sophomore year, she was 5-10, and 6-0 as a junior – all surprisingly without growth pains in her legs. She became one of the Class 4A KingCo’s top rebounders, leading the conference as a junior.

Her toughness on defense and potential is what drew Saints coach Tim Healy to recruit Wiedeman. Healy said the Saints wouldn’t be in the postseason if it hadn’t been for the emergence of Wiedeman. He credits her maturation and increased consistency.

“Megan has come a long way in a short period of time,” Healy said. “When she gets on the court, she gets pretty fierce. ... Rebounding is one of our weakest statistical categories, and she gives us that spark.”

After averaging a little more than 10 minutes a game in November and December, Wiedeman’s playing time increased to 21 or more minutes in 11 of the past 13 games, including eight starts. In addition to Wiedeman’s rebounding, she is an integral part of the Saints’ matchup zone defense that allows a GNAC-low 60.4 points a game.

In five of the past seven games, she’s grabbed 10 or more rebounds, including 15 in a 69-59 upset over regular-season champion and then-No. 25-ranked Montana State Billings on Feb. 22. Her career-high in rebounds is 16 against Simon Fraser. She averages 6.0 points a game.

As a lower seed, the Saints open the GNAC tournament Wednesday as the designated road team, and face an Alaska Anchorage squad they swept this season. Included in that was a 56-46 home victory Feb. 6. It was one of the better defensive performances of the season against a Seawolves team that ranked in the top 10 in scoring among all Division II teams at the time.

But SMU still will retain its home-court advantage for the tournament opener after going 10-2 at Marcus Pavilion this season.

“We do play awesome at home,” Wiedeman said.

About the GNAC tournament

When: Women – Wednesday, Friday, Saturday; Men – Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday

Where: Marcus Pavilion at Saint Martin’s University

At stake: Men’s and women’s tournament champion receives automatic berth into NCAA West Regional.

Tickets (at the door): Tournament passes — $55 (reserved seating); $40 (general admission); $20 (student/youth/seniors). Single-session tickets — $15 (reserved seating); $10 (general admission); $6 (student/youth/seniors).

How to watch: gnactv.com, smusaints.com

Players to watch, B4 GNAC WOMEN’S TOURNAMENT

Wednesday

Game 1, 5:15 p.m.: No. 3 seed Alaska Anchorage (19-7) vs. No. 6 Saint Martin’s (17-10)

Game 2, 7:30 p.m.: No. 4 Simon Fraser (17-8) vs. No. 5 Seattle Pacific (18-8)

Friday

Game 3, 5:15 p.m.: No. 2 Western Washington (17-9) vs. Game 1 winner

Game 4, 7:30 p.m.: No. 1 Montana State Billings (23-6) vs. Game 2 winner

Saturday

Game 5, 7:30 p.m.: Championship

FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH

G Bobbi Knudsen, 5-8, Montana State Billings, senior Unanimous GNAC Player of the Year is a do-it-all player for the conference regular-season champions. Her 5.9 assists a game rank fifth in Division II, and at one stretch she led the country in free-throw percentage.

G Katie Colard, 5-9, Western Washington, junior Just like she was in high school, the Elma native remains a lethal 3-point shooter; shot 40.4 percent on 3-pointers during the regular season.

G/F Erin Chambers, 6-1, Simon Fraser, junior Last year’s GNAC defensive player of the year stepped up her scoring after the graduation of Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe, improving her scoring average by 9 points a game to a GNAC-leading 22.7, eighth-best in the country. She has made 80 starts over three seasons.

F Chelsea Haskey, 6-1, Saint Martin’s, senior The Black Hills High grad can close out her college career in front of hometown fans. Second-team all-GNAC for a second consecutive year, Haskey leads the Saints in three categories: points (13 per game), rebounds (6.8) and steals (1.5).

F Katie Benson, 6-2, Seattle Pacific, senior One of the most consistent conference forwards, Benson’s points (19.4) and rebounds (9.1) ranked second among GNAC players. Also shot 50.4 percent from the floor.

GNAC MEN’S TOURNAMENT

Wednesday

Game 1, noon: No. 3 Alaska Fairbanks (17-9) vs. No. 6 Montana State Billings (12-14)

Game 2, 2:15 p.m.: No. 4 Alaska Anchorage (17-12) vs. No. 5 Western Oregon (17-11)

Thursday

Game 3, 5:15 p.m.: No. 2 Western Washington (19-7) vs. Game 1 winner

Game 4, 7:30 p.m.: No. 1 Seattle Pacific (24-5) vs. Game 2 winner

Saturday

Game 5, 5:15 p.m.: Championship

FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH

G David Downs, 6-2, Seattle Pacific, senior Near-unanimous pick for GNAC Player of the Year ranks 11th in career scoring in the conference with 1,715 points. His 20.1 points-a-game average ranks third in the conference.

G Richard Woodworth, 6-3, Western Washington, senior Three-year starter is one of the Vikings’ most playoff-experienced players, and surpassed 1,000 career points Jan. 2. Was a starter on team’s 2012 NCAA Div. II national champions.

F Andrew Kelly, 6-7, Alaska Fairbanks, senior GNAC Defensive Player of the Year ranked second in the conference in rebounding (8.8) and spearheads a Nanooks defense that allowed 67.4 a game, second-best in the conference.

F Patrick Simon, 6-8, Seattle Pacific, senior Washington State transfer leads Division II in 3-point shooting (53.6 percent). Set SPU single-game record with 10 3-pointers (on 12 attempts, 83.3 percent).

C Austin Bragg, 6-9, Western Washington, senior Had program’s second triple-double in history and third in GNAC history on Feb. 1 (13 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists). Second consecutive year leading the conference in double-doubles (11).

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

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