LACEY - Saint Martin's 78-69 loss to Central Washington on Thursday was a bitter defeat for Saints coach Tim Healy.
With five minutes left, Healy’s Saints took a 59-58 lead on Dara Zack’s putback. His team had rallied from a seven-point deficit with a scrappy, no-quit determination.
But Central Washington went on a 16-3 run to take a 74-62 lead on Jenn Jacobs’ two free throws with 1:10 left, sealing the win.
“I’m really disappointed,” Healy said. “The difference was the defensive side. We played flat-footed. We didn’t play with an urgency.”
Saint Martin’s also couldn’t solve the Wildcats’ pressing, man-to-man defense that was focused on stopping Dara Zack, who came into the game averaging 16.1 points.
Zack got her points, scoring a game-high 24. But she didn’t get much help. Saint Martin’s bench was outscored by Central’s Washington’s reserves, 43-4.
“We wanted to make sure we got into Zack’s head,” Central Washington coach Jeff Whitney said. “We always wanted a hand up on her. I thought we wore her down.”
After taking its one-point lead, Saint Martin’s went scoreless from the field for four minutes and was held to five free throws by Zack.
“You’ve got to guard their perimeter and guard down on No. 12,” Whitney said. “Zack is the heart and soul of their team.”
Central Washington, while only shooting 30 percent from 3-point for the season, was hot from long range. The Wildcats went 9-for-18 from 3-point distance.
Down the stretch, the Wildcats buried back-to-back 3-pointers to open a 68-61 lead with 3:30 left.
“On those outside shots, we weren’t getting out on them,” Saints forward Krissy Bassett said. “It seems like everyone has their best game against us.”
Donisha Calhoun came off the bench to lead Central Washington with a season-high 20 points, going 4-for-4 from 3-point range.
Sophie Russell, Central’s sophomore guard from River Ridge High School, was held to nine points, four below her season average.
“Zack kept us in the game in the second half,” Healy said.
Bassett finished with 16 points on 5-for-21 shooting. Guard Jamey Gelhar added 12 points.
“We got the open shots,” Bassett said. “We just didn’t make them. We make our shots and it’s a different game.”
Saint Martin’s put up 15 more shots than the Wildcats but shot only 40 percent, going 26-for-64 from the field.
Central Washington shot 55 percent (27-for-49).
The Wildcats snapped a three-game losing streak and improved to 5-11 overall and 2-4 in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. The Saints, who have lost eight of their last nine games, dropped to 7-11 overall and 1-6 in conference.
In the first half, there were eight lead changes and three ties. Missing eight of its first 10 shots, Saint Martin’s fell behind 11-5 early, then went on a 6-0 run to tie it 11-11.
Saint Martin’s trailed by as many as six and led by two three times.
The Saints held Russell, who was averaging a team-best 13.5 points coming into the game, to four points in the first half.
Central Washington shot 52.2 percent (12-for-23) in the first half, and the Saints shot only 35.5 percent (12-for-34). But Saint Martin’s had 12 turnovers to the Wildcats’ 12.
Colleen Betteridge, a junior guard shooting 29 percent from 3-point coming into the game, sparked Central by going 3-for-5 from 3-point range for nine first-half points, seven above her season average.