lacey — Angela Gelhar remembers standing off to the side watching the 2013 Great Northwest Athletic Conference women’s basketball tournament.
A year later, the Saint Martin’s University junior is center stage.
Gelhar scored a game-high 21 points, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers late in the game to seal the sixth-seeded Saints’ 58-48 upset of third-seeded Alaska Anchorage in the quarterfinals of the GNAC tournament Wednesday night at Marcus Pavilion.
“It’s huge,” Saint Martin’s coach Tim Healy said about the win. “It’s a big deal for us, for the university, for the kids. This is huge.”
Saint Martin’s (18-10) has hosted the tournament the past three seasons but failed to earn a berth the previous two years. The top six teams in the conference advance.
Behind a gutty performance that not only included Gelhar’s clutch shooting, but also a tournament record in rebounding from sophomore Megan Wiedeman, the Saints got their first victory at the tournament. They held the Seawolves, the GNAC’s top-scoring team during the regular season at almost 82 points a contest, well below their average.
“We wanted to control the tempo from the beginning,” Healy said. “We did not want to get involved in a running game. Our style of defense is very difficult for a fast team.”
Neither squad shot well — combining to miss 89 attempts from the field — with the Seawolves going 18-for-69 (26.1 percent) and SMU a shade better at 32.1 percent (18-for-56). But the game will best be remembered for the two shots Gelhar made in the final two minutes.
Alaska Anchorage (19-8) gradually trimmed Saint Martin’s 13-point lead to 50-48 with 21/2 minutes remaining.
The Saints’ offense was nonexistent for almost eight minutes before Gelhar buried her first 3 to give SMU a little breathing room.
A second 3-pointer from Gelhar followed on the next possession, pushing the Saints’ lead to 56-48 with a little more than a minute left.
It proved to be the knockout blow.
“It was just good passes on both shots,” Gelhar said. “Jordyn (Richardson) drove the middle, and it left me wide open.”
Should Gelhar had missed, odds are Wiedeman would have been there to corral the rebound.
Wiedeman finished with 17 rebounds — breaking the previous tournament high of 14. The Saints outrebounded the Seawolves, 50-43.
It was the sixth time in the past eight games that Wiedeman registered double-digit rebounds.
“She’s made a believer out of a lot of people,” Healy said. “We would not be where we are without her rebounding.”
SMU also got 11 rebounds and eight points from Chelsea Haskey.
Up next for the Saints will be second-seeded Western Washington University in Friday’s semifinals. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:15 p.m.
“There’s no question; they’re a tough matchup for us,” Healy said of WWU. “Their size is tough for us. We are going to have to ramp up the defense.”
The Vikings won both regular-season games — 79-73 in Lacey and 69-52 in Bellingham.
SMU led Alaska Anchorage, 33-23, at halftime — and the Seawolves were very fortunate to be down by only 10.
If not for 11 costly Saints turnovers, several coming deep in the paint, or from a lackluster passing, their first-half advantage could have been significantly larger.
Outside of the turnover numbers — Alaska Anchorage had just five — SMU controlled virtually every aspect of the opening half. The Saints were especially dominant in the final 11 minutes, when they used a 15-0 run to post their double-digit lead.
The Saints corrected the turnover problem in the second half — giving up just two — and improved to 11-2 at home. They won all three meetings this season against Alaska Anchorage. No other GNAC team had defeated the Seawolves more than once.
Simon Fraser 87, Seattle Pacific 79: The fourth-seeded Clan got 24 points from Marie-Line Petit and 16 from Erin Chambers, the conference’s top scorer during the regular season, to put away the fifth-seeded Falcons.
Simon Fraser (18-8) will play top-seeded Montana State-Billings (23-6) in the semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Seattle Pacific (18-9) got a game-high 25 points from Suzanna Ohlsen.
Alaska Fairbanks 69, Montana State-Billings 59: Joe Slocum scored 15 points, Andrew Kelly chipped in 14, and the third-seeded Nanooks used a strong second half to put away the No. 6 Yellowjackets.
Alaska Fairbanks advances to Thursday’s 5:15 p.m. semifinal game against second-seeded Western Washington (19-7).
Austin Hudson paced MSU-Billings (12-15) with 14 points and nine rebounds.
Western Oregon 94, Alaska Anchorage 88: Rodney Webster and Jordan Wiley combined to score 54 points to power the fifth-seeded Wolves past the fourth-seeded Seawolves.
Webster went for 30 points, while Wiley, on 7-for-12 shooting from long range, added 24.
Western Oregon (19-11) will play No. 1 Seattle Pacific (24-5) in the semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
Alaska Anchorage (17-13) was led by 27 points from Kyle Fossman.